As the investigation and cleanup of the ExxonMobil oil spill in the Yellowstone River continues in Montana, plans for a much longer oil line are coming under scrutiny. The State Dept. says it will consider the recent leak from the ExxonMobil pipeline as part of its ongoing review of the international TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline, parts of which originate in Hardisty, Alberta, and cross through the same river in Montana on its way to oil terminals located in Texas.

“Since we're in the decision process, of course we're looking at what's happened in the ExxonMobil case, and we're interested in any input that the public has,” according to Wendy Nassmacher, a State Dept. spokeswoman.

Meanwhile, a new study released this month by John Stansbury, a professor of environmental and water-resources engineering at the University of Nebraska, says TransCanada underestimated the risks of spills from its proposed Keystone XL pipeline. TransCanada estimated there would be spills equivalent to 50 barrels or more 11 times over the pipe's 50-year life span. However, the report says the Canadian company ignored some historical spill data and said its proposed pipeline is designed to better withstand breaks and spills, even though the line will have to withstand higher pressures and more corrosive oil.

“This document shows that the emergency response plan for the Keystone pipeline is woefully inadequate,” Stansbury writes.

Although TransCanada has disputed Stansbury's findings, the study has added fuel to environmentalists' efforts to oppose the $7-billion pipeline that woud move crude 1,660 miles across eight states.

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, while at odds with ExxonMobil over the Silvertip pipeline, continues to support the Keystone XL line. He says the Keystone XL pipeline would sit at least 25 ft below the riverbed and have automatic shutoff valves. Schweitzer also notes that the pipe would be installed under the river using horizontal boring, not simply laid in the Yellowstone as the ExxonMobil line is.

“I don't think one ought to confuse what happens with this particular old technology, Silvertip, with what will occur in the future,” Schweitzer says.