"We'll make the decision over the next couple of days whether to shut off some pipelines," Schweitzer told Reuters in a telephone interview. "The last thing I want is for another pipeline to break."
Schweitzer said he made the move after a spill from an Exxon Mobil pipeline, which occurred early Saturday near Billings, Montana, released into the Yellowstone River up to 1,000 barrels of oil, or 42,000 gallons.
Schweitzer said the pipeline inspections, the second round he has called for in as many months, will assess the risk of ruptures and leaks in 88 sections of pipeline that cross rivers and streams in the state.
The review will gauge factors including the pipes' age, thickness and corrosion, and the condition and operation of all shut-off valves. It will also evaluate whether pipeline companies have adequate emergency response and clean-up plans, including training and equipment such as boats and booms at the site, Schweitzer said.
Exxon Mobil Corp said on Monday that the spill appeared to be concentrated within a 15-mile stretch of the river between Billings and the nearby town of Laurel, although it is continuing to assess areas further down stream for potential damage.
Gary Pruessing, the president of the company's pipeline unit, said the firm still does not know the cause of the leak that spilled oil into the river, but said that it may change the way it conducts pipeline safety reviews.
"This will give us additional information to think about when we consider doing risk assessments on any line that has a river crossing anywhere in the country," Pruessing said during a news conference in Laurel, Montana.
The spill came just weeks after the company shut down the pipeline in May after the City of Laurel had safety concerns due to the rising levels of the river from rain and runoff.
"At the time we shut down the line... and went down did a further risk assessment to make sure the site based on technical knowledge we had was something we'd feel comfortable to run," Pruessing said. "We restarted the line feeling like we had a safe operation." he added.
Pruessing said that Exxon had 200 people working to clean up the spilled oil, more than 125 of them within 15 miles of the spill site.
The clean up crews had around 32,000 feet of absorbent boom to soak up the spilled oil and more than 2,200 absorbent pads, he said.
"We deeply regret that this has occurred," he said. "We are committed to being here until the clean up is done."
I'll believe corporations are persons when Texas executes one.: LBJ's Ghost
(Reuters) - Environmental officials scrambled on Tuesday to assess the extent of contamination from a weekend oil spill that has fouled water supplies and ranch lands along a scenic and otherwise pristine stretch of the Yellowstone River in Montana.
An Exxon Mobil pipeline ruptured on Friday night about 150 miles downstream from Yellowstone National Park near the town of Laurel, Montana, just southwest of Billings, dumping up to 1,000 barrels, or 42,000 gallons, of crude oil into the flood-swollen river.
Toxic fumes from the oil overcame a number of people who reported breathing problems and dizziness and were taken to local hospitals. But state and federal officials on Tuesday said they lacked a tally of health problems or the number of riverside homes that were evacuated after the accident.
The spill also has wreaked havoc on ranching and farming operations along the Yellowstone, the longest river without a dam in the United States, which provides irrigation and drinking water for communities along its banks.
Jerry Williams, who raises livestock, wheat, alfalfa and hay on some 800 acres of land around Laurel, said high water from the river has washed oil across much of his property.
"It was the night the river peaked, so the river water was flooded all over the place, and that brought oil all over both ranches," he told Reuters. "All of our grasslands ... have just thick, black crude stuck to all the grass, trees, low lands."
Williams said his spring wheat crop and alfalfa are both in need of irrigation, but farmers in the area were advised not to take water from the river for the time being. Drinking supplies also are in limbo, he said.
"We get all our drinking water from our wells and for our animals," Williams said. "We don't know if we'll be able to use them since the river was high. All the groundwater, I assume, is probably contaminated. We just don't know."
Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer said on Tuesday he has told Exxon and federal agencies overseeing the spill response that the state alone will decide when the cleanup is done.
"The state of Montana is going to stay on this like the smell on a skunk," he told Reuters by telephone as he toured areas hit by the spill.