Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has started an investigation into the March 30 Exxon Mobil Corp. oil pipeline accident that has caused tens of thousands of gallons of oil to spread in the area around Mayflower, Ark. The Attorney General’s office demanded the giant oil company preserve all the documents relating to the spill. In a letter to ExxonMobil officials, the Attorney General said his office will investigate the cause and impact of Exxon’s Pegasus pipeline rupture. Thousands of gallons of crude oil leaked into a residential neighborhood in Mayflower near Lake Conway. The spill is leaving significant damage affecting the state’s environment and property in the surrounding area. Attorney General McDaniel said in a statement:
This incident has damaged private property and Arkansas’ natural resources. Homeowners have been forced from their homes as a result of this spill. Requesting that Exxon secure these documents and data is the first step in determining what happened and preserving evidence for any future litigation.
Exxon says it will cooperate in any investigations. The company, in a statement on its website, said emergency response personnel were on the ground within 30 minutes after the leak was detected and that the pipeline has been shut in and crews are working to contain the spill. The company said that “fifteen vacuum trucks and 33 storage tanks have been deployed to the site to clean up and temporarily store the oil. Approximately 12,000 barrels of oil and water have been recovered.” Cleanup crews deployed 3,600 feet of boom around nearby Lake Conway as a precaution. ExxonMobil said no oil has reached the lake. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) categorizes this incident as a “major spill.”
McDaniel said his letter asks the oil company to require any affected employees and affiliated organizations to preserve all “documents, data compilations (including electronically recorded and stored data), tangible objects or other information” relevant to the pipeline rupture, spill and cleanup. He requested that ExxonMobil take all necessary measures to prevent destruction or modification of those records.
The Pegasus pipeline is a 20-inch pipeline that originates in Patoka, Ill., and carries Canadian crude oil to the Texas Gulf Coast. Opponents of TransCanada Corp.’s controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would also carry Canadian oil to the Gulf Coast, have pointed to the Pegasus spill as an example of the kinds of dangers they fear. Anthony Swift, a lawyer at the Natural Resources Defense Council, had this to say in a written statement:
At about a tenth of the full capacity of the Keystone XL tar sands pipelines, the Pegasus pipeline rupture offers us a small sample of the risk that tar sands pipelines pose to American communities. The Arkansas tar sands spill is a tragic warning of the danger of industry’s reckless plan to expand the transport of tar sands across American communities and sensitive water resources.
The pipeline was originally built in 1947 and 1948, according to federal pipeline safety officials. It is currently out of service. For that to change, ExxonMobil would need written approval from a federal pipeline safety official, according to the order from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., calls the spill “a troubling reminder that oil companies still have not proven that they can safely transport Canadian tar sands oil across the United States without creating risks to our citizens and our environment.” While there is a definite need for energy independence in this country, there must be strong regulation of the oil companies. Factors such as safety and protecting the environment can’t be ignored. There must be a balance between the push for drilling and pipelines and the need for strong regulation. Attorney General McDaniel should be commended for his actions on behalf of the taxpayers in his state in this case.
In a related matter, two women who live near the pipeline have filed a civil class action lawsuit against the company in federal court. The Plaintiffs, Kimla Greene and Kathryn Jane Roachell, are seeking money damages to make up for “a permanent diminishment in property value.” Their complaint says the women are bringing their lawsuit on their own behalf and for other people who live near the pipeline in Arkansas.
Source: The Christian Science Monitor
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