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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Arkansas Tar Sands Spill Now is Exhibit A in Activists' Case Against Keystone XL Pipeline

As activists have poured their efforts into opposing the Keystone XL pipeline project, they've received a shot in the arm for their argument against it in the form of the ExxonMobil Pegasus tar sands pipeline spill in Arkansas.  And they are using it.

From actor/director Robert Redford in the Huffington Post:
When I see raw tar sands coursing through people's yards and across wetlands, it makes me sick. My thoughts are with the people in Arkansas who are dealing with this river of toxic mess. And my thoughts instantly move ahead to what could happen to farms, families, homes, and wild areas across our country if we support expansion of tar sands with permits for pipelines such as Keystone XL. The answer seems clear, especially when we look at the graphic video footage from Arkansas: tar sands expansion rewards the oil industry while putting us all at risk of oil spills and climate change. That's a raw deal by any calculation.
Let's recap what happened in Arkansas and why it is such a timely reminder that tar sands expansion and tar sands pipelines hurt us. On March 29, Exxon's Pegasus tar sands pipelineruptured, flooding a suburban community outside of Little Rock, Arkansas with hundreds of thousands of gallons of tar sands crude. This toxic river of heavy tar sands bitumen and volatile petrochemical diluents is not a mix that anyone would want flowing in front of their houses.
Read the whole post here.

Next, from DeSmogBlog:
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)has had a "no fly zone" in place in Mayflower, Arkansas since April 1 at 2:12 PM and will be in place "until further notice," according to the FAA website and it's being overseen by ExxonMobil itself. In other words, any media or independent observers who want to witness the tar sands spill disaster have to ask Exxon's permission. 
Mayflower is the site of the recent major March 29 ExxonMobil Pegagus tar sands pipeline spill, which belched out an estimated 5,000 barrels of tar sands diluted bitumen ("dilbit") into the small town's neighborhoods, causing theevacuation of 22 homes 
The rules of engagement for the no fly zone dictate that no aircraft can fly within 1,000 feet of the ground in the five-mile radius surrounding the ExxonMobil Pegasus tar sands pipeline spillThe area located within this radius includes the nearby Pine Village Airport. 
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette revealed that the FAA site noted earlier today that "only relief aircraft operations under direction of Tom Suhrhoff" were allowed within the designated no fly zone.  
Suhrhoff is not an FAA employee: he works for ExxonMobil as an "Aviation Advisor" and formerly worked as a U.S. Army pilot for 24 years, according to his LinkedIn page.  
Read the rest of the article here.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg (of all places) makes the argument that not building the pipeline will create more risk of spills because it would cause more crude to be transported by rail - a much riskier method.  From Bloomberg:
A rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline by President Barack Obama would push more ofCanada’s $73 billion oil exports onto trains, which register almost three times more spills than pipelines.
The March 29 rupture of an Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM). oil pipeline in Mayflower, Arkansas, provided the latest evidence for opponents citing the risk of environmental contamination in their efforts to scuttle the Keystone XL project, an almost 2,000-mile pipeline linking Alberta’s oil sands with the world’s largest refining market on the U.S. Gulf Coast. The alternative, hauling crude by rail, may be worse, said Charles Ebinger, director of the Brookings Institution’s energy security initiative.
A sixty-foot section of pipe is lowered into a trench during construction of the Gulf Coast Project pipeline in Prague, Oklahoma, U.S. Photograph: Daniel Acker via Bloomberg
A U.S. denial of Keystone XL this year would “undoubtedly” result in more oil spills by trains, Ebinger said in a phone interview. Trains’ higher accident rate comes mainly from leaking rail car equipment, spill records show.
“The evidence is so overwhelming that railroads are far less safe than pipelines, that it would be a serious mistake to use these recent spills to say that Keystone is unsafe,” he said. Brookings is a Washington-based nonprofit that says it supports economic and social welfare and a strong American democracy.
Read that whole article here. 

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