A pipeline network more than 2.5 million miles long transports oil and natural gas throughout the United States — but a top official in the federal government’s pipeline safety oversight agency admits that the regulatory process is overstretched and “kind of dying.” A recent spike in the number of spills illustrates the problem: the Department of Transportation recorded 73 pipeline-related accidents in 2014, an 87 percent increase over 2009.
Despite calls for stricter regulations over the last few years, the rules governing the infrastructure have largely remained the same. Critics say that this is because of the oil industry’s cozy relationship with regulators, and argue that violations for penalties are too low to compel compliance.
VICE News traveled to Glendive, Montana, to visit the site of a pipeline spill that dumped more than 50,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River, to find out why the industry has such weak regulatory oversight.
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