Shocking aerial video shows magnitude of Arkansas oil spill, as cleanup continues and frustration at Exxon grows [VIDEOS]
It has been nearly a week since the ExxonMobil Pegasus oil pipeline ruptured in Mayflower, Arkansas, spilling an estimated 12,000 barrels of oil and chemicals into a suburban neighborhood and nearby body of water.
Since then, 22 families have been evacuated from their homes, the appearance of oiled birds and wildlife has raised concerns the oil has spread beyond the neighborhood and we've learned that a legal technicality exempts Exxon from being required to contribute money to a federal oil spill cleanup fund.
The spill and its aftermath has not just shaken an Arkansas town, but has also sparked continued debate over the controversial tar sands oil and how transporting this oil via pipelines puts communities and the climate at risk.
Below are videos and photos from local and national media on the latest news and discussion on this oil spill and the larger issues it raises. If there's a good video clip, photos or news item you think should be added, please let me know in the comments or on Twitter: @ChrisTackett. Note: Please be patient while the video players load.
Video of Oil Spilling into Arkansas Neighborhood
Drew Barnes, a resident of the affected neighborhood, shot this incredible video of a river of oil flowing through the subdivision.
Aerial Video of Mayflower Oil Spill
As shocking as that scene on the ground is, this aerial footage of the Mayflower oil spill is easily the most disturbing video of the Arkansas oil spill I've seen so far.
When I wrote about the appearance of oiled ducks, I suspected that was a sign the oil had reached a body of water, since it seemed unlikely the birds would be landing in the oil-soaked yards we had seen in earlier photos of the spill. This video confirms my suspicion and shows oil has spread far beyond the streets and yards of the neighborhood and has reached a nearby body of water.
Since this video was taken, the FAA has restricted flight over the spill site.
The FAA's reason for this restriction is reportedly that the fumes from the oil are hazardous. YouTube user LeeCamp2 asks the right question, "If those fumes are dangerous to planes flying overhead, what exactly do they do to humans?" However, fumes or not, after seeing this footage, I wonder if this restriction has more to do with limiting the amount of damning video that shows the widespread scale of this disaster.
UPDATE: Arkansas Online (via DesmogBlog) reports that the FAA flight restriction is being overseen by an Exxon employee. So it is actually Exxon that is determining when media can return to the air to film the spill. They claim the reason is to keep the air space clear so an Exxon helicopter can move about freely. With the restriction limiting flights within 1,000 feet, presumably the media could fly higher than 1000 feet to get photos or footage, however that may not be as effective.
Exxon Censoring Media at Arkansas Oil Spill Site
UALR Public Radio reports on how the flight restrictions will limit the media's ability to take follow-up footage to compare and see how the cleanup is progressing. They also note how Exxon is blocking media access on the ground.
Attorney General Pledges Legal Action Against Exxon
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel is also growing frustrated with Exxon. In this piece at Arkansas' KATV, he says legal action against ExxonMobil is "a certainty"
After a visit to the oil spill site, AG McDaniel says, "that neighborhood was like a scene from The Walking Dead." He says after seeing the spill site, he left with more questions than answers, including "How long was it leaking? How deep beneath the surface was the plume? What caused the rupture?"
You can hear more of McDaniel's stern comments regarding Exxon's handling of the cleanup in this radio segment from UALR Public Radio.
“I let it be known that I would be coming today with lawyers and with investigators and we were coming on behalf of the state and many times they attempted to route me into a van and take me on a tour. And I tried to explain to them I’m not here for a tour and I’m not getting into a van,” McDaniel said.
“We are here on behalf of the state of Arkansas as the state’s lawyer, as a constitutional officer empowered by the General Assembly to enforce our laws and we were here to conduct an investigation, not take a tour. So I didn’t appreciate some of how we were treated, so I can only imagine how some of the homeowners must have felt.”
KATV reports that Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe has questions of his own:
KTHV reports on a closed-door meeting Exxon officials held with Mayflower residents evacuated from their homes, however residents left without much more information than when they entered. The evacuations are expected to last for a couple weeks, though Exxon provided no clarity as to how they will compensate homeowners whose homes and properties have likely decreased in value.
NBC News Visits Source of Tar Sands Oil that Spilled in Arkansas
In the national media, NBC Nightly News' Anne Thompson covered the Mayflower oil spill. Her report includes aerial footage of both the Arkansas spill and the source of the oil, the tar sands of Alberta, Canada.
How the Arkansas Oil Spill Changes the Keystone XL Debate
In the debut of his new show, "All In with Chris Hayes," Hayes discusses the Arkansas spill and the long-term effects it will have. Panelists include Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., 350.org’s May Boeve, CNBC’s Dan Dicker, Glen Hooks from the Sierra Club of Arkansas.
The conversation continues as the panels discusses the implications the Arkansas spill has on the Keystone XL pipeline debate and the future of energy policy in the United States.
Also on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow featured the Mayflower oil spill and had Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel on the program to talk about his investigation into the cause of the spill and whether he thinks Exxon will cooperate:
In a smart recap of the controversy over tar sands oil, Maddow uses the Mayflower oil spill as a lead-in to a discussion on the tar sands oil spill on the Kalamazoo River oil spill, which has become the most expensive oil spill in US history with cleanup costs surpassing $765 million dollars.
Displaced Arkansas Residents Struggling to Cope with Oil Spill Evacuation
Elsewhere in local news, Arkansas' KATV had a segment on how the evacuated families have had their lives upturned and are struggling to cope:
Arkansas Students Help Look for Oiled Birds
The University of Central Arkansas' Biology Department's Ornithology class volunteered to search for oiled birds and other wildlife:
New Photos from Exxon Oil Spill
And Arkansas' KTHV has a photo gallery with some new photos.
Photographer Razorbackfoto has some additional photos showing that the oil has reached a body of water:
I'll continue updating this post as the story develops.
MORE: See all of our Mayflower, Arkansas oil spill coverage here.