Exxon to Tester: ‘No plans to layoff anyone’ at Billings refinery
Tester demanded that employees ‘should not be penalized’ following oil spill
(U.S. SENATE) – In response to last Friday’s letter from Senator Jon Tester, ExxonMobil today said that it has “no plans to layoff anyone” at its Billings refinery following its July 1 oil spill into the Yellowstone River.
“We are continuing to work diligently to identify all available crude supplies to enable us to continue operating the refinery,” ExxonMobil President Sherman Glass told Tester today.
Following a tour of the oil spill last week, Tester told CEO Rex Tillerson that “dedicated ExxonMobil employees and their families should not be penalized for the shutdown or slowdown of the refinery during the cleanup, investigation and repair.”
Exxon employs nearly 250 Montanans at its refinery near Billings.
“I hear frequently from ExxonMobil and its employees about the importance of its Billings refinery to the local economy,” Tester wrote. “I hope that you will show the same commitment to your employees that they show their company during this uncertain time.”
ExxonMobil’s response to Tester appears below. Tester’s July 8 letter to CEO Rex Tillerson is available online HERE.
Dear Senator Tester:
I am responding to your letter to Mr. Rex Tillerson of July 8 regarding ongoing operations and employment at our Billings, Montana refinery.
Let me begin by again stating that we are very sorry about the spill. We have operated in Montana for over sixty years and work hard to be a responsible member of the community which makes this event a significant disappointment for all of us. ExxonMobil Pipeline Company is cleaning up the oil and will stay with the job until it is complete. ExxonMobil Pipeline Company has the resources in place to clean up the spill and respond to claims by people who have been affected and is also working closely with federal and state authorities to ensure effective response.
I can assure you that we have no plans to layoff anyone at our Billings Refinery in the foreseeable future. We are continuing to work diligently to identify all available crude supplies to enable us to continue operating the refinery. We are currently running at reduced rates, and inventories are low. In the event that we cannot source enough feedstock to keep all units running, we will take a controllable downtime on some units and advance planned maintenance to enable us to sustain employment of both employees and contractors in the short-term.
Due to the region's infrastructure, the Silvertip pipeline is critical to ensuring crude supply to the Billings Refinery. Expediting the restoration and restart of the pipeline is key to ensuring ongoing refinery operations. The viability of the refinery depends on our ability to secure adequate crude supplies.
ExxonMobil Pipeline Company has developed a plan for repair of the pipeline, and needed material and contractor support is already being acquired. This work includes discussions regarding state and federal permit requirements, and work will be carried out in consultation with relevant authorities, including the Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration which has issued a Corrective Action Order outlining requirements to restart the pipeline.
A critical component of the Corrective Action Order requires horizontal directional drilling to bypass and replace the damaged pipeline at the site of the river crossing. Horizontal directional drilling will enable the pipeline river crossing to be as much as 30 feet below the river bottom, and add up to 2,000 feet of new pipeline along the existing pipeline right-of-way. The existing pipeline under the river will be undisturbed by this process. This will not impact an investigation of the cause of the July 1 incident which is also required under the Corrective Action Order. We will also take the steps prescribed in our permits to minimize any neighborhood or business impacts created by this necessary work.
I again appreciate your continued interest and involvement. I also appreciate any support to promptly restore the pipeline to operation to ensure employment of our refinery workers and contractors and to continue to provide supplies to the people of Montana.
Sherman J. Glass, Jr.