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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Spill News Coverage: U.S. Justifies Actions

The United States was justified in drawing attention to a major oil spill in Russia's far north even though the actual size of the problem remained uncertain, Deputy U.S. Energy Secretary Bill White said Tuesday.

"The U.S. government is not in the business of trying to suppress information about oil spills," he told a news briefing.

White said in October that between 100,000 and 2 million barrels of crude oil had leaked from a pipeline in the Komi republic, about 2,000 kilometers north of Moscow.

The higher figure, which he said had been given by a U.S. oil company, would be eight times as big as the 1989 Exxon Valdez tanker spill in Alaska. The amount has been vigorously denied by Russian officials.

White, speaking in Moscow ahead of an international conference on oil and law, said the U.S. Energy Department had been informed of the spill by industry sources several days before it appeared in the media.

Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Yury Shafranik has suggested media coverage was exaggerated by people seeking to push down the shares of Komineft, the regional company that owns the pipeline.

Shafranik also linked the fuss to a major oil project in the nearby Timan-Pechora basin, saying companies not involved in the deal may have been seeking to cause problems for those taking part, presumably by highlighting environmental risks.

White said he did not believe there was any ulterior motive behind the reporting of the spill by a company that he declined to name.

"I don't think there has been any attempt on our part to sensationalize this," he said.