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Exxon claimed failed Mont. pipe 12 ft. under river

LAUREL, Mont. (AP) -- Federal documents show Exxon Mobil Co. told concerned regulators that an oil pipeline beneath the flooding Yellowstone River was 12 feet beneath the riverbed a month before the line broke and spewed an estimated 1,000 barrels of crude into the waterway.

Details about Exxon Mobil's actions leading up to the Friday night spill emerged as the Department of Transportation ordered the company to bury the 12-inch pipeline more deeply. The cause of the pipeline's failure remains under investigation, but the prevailing theory is that the raging river eroded the riverbed and exposed the line to damaging debris.

The documents also show it took Exxon Mobil almost an hour to fully seal the pipeline after the accident -- nearly twice as long as it publicly disclosed.

An Exxon executive told Gov. Brian Schweitzer on Tuesday that it took only 30 minutes to seal and stop the flow of crude into the river. The company hasn't responded to Associated Press requests for a timeline.