Two weeks ago today, Exxon Mobil's Pegasus pipeline carrying diluted bitumen from Canada ruptured catastrophically, creating a 22-foot long gash that unleashed hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil and toxic chemical diluents into the Central Arkansas town of Mayflower. Since then, the local media has faced strong intimidation from Exxon, local residents have become sick from the toxic fumes, a severe thunderstorm threatened cleanup efforts, leading officials to release contaminated water into Lake Conway and the Attorney General of Arkansas has launched an investigation, as a number of lawsuits have been filed on behalf of residents.Attorney General McDaniel speaks with Rachel Maddow about the status of his investigation. McDaniel said he has received from Exxon more than 12,000 pages of documents related to the pipeline and is investigating if the company was negligent in this disaster:
“I think when people found out that there was a rupture and there was a 65-year-old pipeline, I think that almost everybody assumed that there was some small crack due to age,” he told MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. “The rupture was 22 feet long. Twenty-two feet is not something one would think would happen gradually. So now we’re starting to ask all new questions.”
Lisa Song at InsideClimate News notes that the 22-foot long rupture illustrates the tremendous pressure these pipeline operate under:
At the time of the rupture, the pipeline was operating at 708 psig (pound-force per square inch gauge), about 14 percent below its maximum operating pressure of 820 psig. That's more than twice the pressure of a fire hose, which can spray water 30 floors into the air. But a fire hose is a few inches in diameter, and the Pegasus is 20 inches wide.
Earlier today I wrote about how important it was that citizen journalists gathered video of the damage caused by this spill and how Exxon was using local law enforcement officers to censor and intimidate the media.
Thankfully some new video is now available. Here is new aerial footage is available here. Sadly, the video is not embeddable. (Come on, KARK!)
And here's video of an off-duty sheriff deputy, working as a private security guard for Exxon Mobil, while in uniform:
via Max Brantley at Arkansas Times
In that video, one of the men says that it is illegal for a law enforcement officer to wear his or her uniform while working for another organization. This is not true, as Scarlet Sims of Conway's Log Cabin Democrat reports:
Satkowski said Exxon required officers to wear their uniforms. Exxon spokeswoman Kim Jordan said in email that “our understanding is whether an officer wears the uniform is up to the individual.”
Officers are allowed to wear their uniforms, even when off duty and working for a private company, if their department OKs it, said Ronnie Baldwin, executive director of the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Association.
The only stated rule is officers can’t work a second job while on duty, Baldwin said. Shock said his deputies can wear their uniforms.
While it may not be illegal, it certainly seems unethical and misleading, since members of the press and public will not know whether the commands given by a uniformed officer are legal or simply the direct of Exxon Mobil.
Edward McAllister at Reuters has a must-read piece on how Exxon has been throwing money around to placate locals in Mayflower.
When eight students, who were vomiting and complained of headaches, were sent home from Mayflower Elementary School on the Monday morning after the spill, an Exxon Mobil doctor arrived quickly on the scene. The doctor quelled concerns about the air quality around the school, which is just a block south of the spill site, according to school principal Candie Watts.
"The doctor explained that some students would have greater sensitivity than others, but because of the air tests done, there was no cause for alarm," Watts said.
Exxon has given the school $15,000 to pay for a party planned after state exams next week.
There's so much more to this report, so read the rest.
In another must-read, Katherine Bagley at InsideClimate News has a killer piece of reporting, documenting the timeline of events that shows Exxon may be covering up what they knew and when:
Exxon has maintained a studied silence on the events of the day, noting in press releases and communications with federal investigators that the company shut off the pipeline within 16 minutes of learning of the spill.
And while police reports indicate that Exxon found out about the spill when the company was notified by local officials, other documents suggest that the company may have known something was wrong hours earlier.
Exxon told the federal National Response Center that it saw a problem on the line at 1:15 p.m. when it spotted a drop in pressure, an hour and a half before the first 911 call reached the Faulkner County sheriff. The National Response Center is a division of the U.S. Coast Guard. Pipeline operators must notify the NRC of oil or chemical spills. Exxon placed that first call to the NRC at 4:06 p.m. local time, about 20 minutes after its responders arrived on the scene in Mayflower.
Two hours after filing that first report with the NRC, however, Exxon filed a second report reporting the time of the incident as 3:20 p.m. In a third report to the NRC the next day, Exxon again reported "the incident was discovered" at 1:15 p.m.
That too has so much more to see, so read the rest. I suspect this timeline of events will end up playing a significant role in the AG investigation over whether Exxon is found to be criminally negligent in this case.
Elsewhere, Max Brantley at The Arkansas Times reports that Central Arkansas Water has asked Exxon to relocate the pipeline that runs through the Lake Maumelle watershed:
The board of the Central Arkansas Water utility met today and, as expected, adopted a resolution asking for information from Exxon Mobil about causes of the pipeline rupture at Mayflower and for assurances about future safe operation before the Pegasus pipeline is restarted.
Long-term, but within five years, the utility board said it wanted Exxon to relocate the line, which runs through 13.5 miles of the Lake Maumelle watershed, including skirting the edge of the reservoir, a primary water supply for Central Arkansas customers. The resolution asks for a report on relocation within six months.
And Living on Earth host Steve Curwood interviewed "Mayflower resident Becky Naylor about the spill and the clean up effort."
Lastly, an Exxon Mobil employee wrote a blog post on Exxon's blog (yes, they have a blog!) that aimed to spin away some of the criticism they have been facing in the aftermath of this spill, including claiming that the oil is conventional crude, not tar sands oil and that they are not benefiting from the Oil Liability Trust Fund loophole that exempts tar sands oil. David Turnbull at Oil Change International, had a good response. Turnbull summarizes:
To sum up from my end, I’d simply say:
1. I’ll believe they’re paying for the cleanup when I see it. But folks in Valdez, Maryland, and Yellowstone may not be so kind.
2. Wabasca heavy crude is tar sands by a different name. If tar sands isn’t so bad, why the name game to avoid calling it what it really is?
3. If ExxonMobil is paying taxes on Wabasca heavy crude (aka tar sands), show us the proof.
In short: Prove us wrong, Exxon.
For more on this oil spill, see my previous reporting below and in the sidebar to the left.
More on the Mayflower, Arkansas oil spill
As Exxon censors local media, citizen journalists document Arkansas oil spill. Can the pros be doing more?
Exxon pipeline breaks spilling 84,000 gallons of Canadian crude oil near Arkansas lake [UPDATED]
Are 'oiled' birds in Arkansas signs the Exxon oil spill has spread to Lake Conway? (UPDATED)
Exxon won't pay into cleanup fund because oil spilled in Arkansas isn't "oil"
Shocking aerial video shows magnitude of Arkansas oil spill, as cleanup continues and frustration at Exxon grows [VIDEOS]
As Exxon cleans oil spill in Arkansas, Shell pipeline spills 700 barrels in Houston
Exxon's Arkansas oil spill has reached Lake Conway, says Attorney General McDaniel
Mayflower, Arkansas "on lockdown" following Exxon oil spill
Arkansas oil spill could be almost 300,000 gallons, video shows alleged "dumping ground" in wetland (UPDATES)