News / USA

Exxon Cleans up Arkansas Oil Spill; Keystone Plan Assailed

Emergency crews work to clean up an oil spill near Interstate 40 in Mayflower, Arkansas. An Exxon Mobil pipeline carrying Canadian crude oil was shut off after a ruptured on Friday causing an evacuation of 22 homes, Mar. 31, 2013.
Emergency crews work to clean up an oil spill near Interstate 40 in Mayflower, Arkansas. An Exxon Mobil pipeline carrying Canadian crude oil was shut off after a ruptured on Friday causing an evacuation of 22 homes, Mar. 31, 2013.
Reuters
Exxon Mobil on Sunday continued cleanup of a pipeline spill that spewed thousands of barrels of heavy Canadian crude in Arkansas as opponents of oil sands development latched on to the incident to attack plans to build the Keystone XL line.

Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers said on Sunday that crews had yet to excavate the area around the pipeline breach, a needed step before the company can estimate how long repairs will take and when the line might restart.
 
“I can't speculate on when it will happen,” Jeffers said. “Excavation is necessary as part of an investigation to determine the cause of the incident.”
 
Exxon's Pegasus pipeline, which can carry more than 90,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude from Patoka, Illinois to Nederland, Texas, was shut after the leak was discovered late Friday afternoon in a subdivision near the town of Mayflower. The leak forced the evacuation of 22 homes.
 
Exxon also had no specific estimate of how much crude oil had spilled, but the company said 12,000 barrels of oil and water had been recovered - up from 4,500 barrels on Saturday. The company did not say how much of the total was oil and how much was water.
 
Allen Dodson, Faulkner County judge who is the top executive for the county where the spill occurred, told Reuters in an interview on Sunday that the smell of crude was less potent on Sunday as cleanup efforts continued, saying it was weaker than the smell of fresh asphalt laid on a road.
 
“The freestanding oil on the street has been removed. It's still damp with oil, it's tacky, like it is before we do an asphalt overlay,” he said.
 
Exxon said it staged the response to handle 10,000 barrels of oil “to ensure adequate resources are in place.”
 
Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) also were on site to investigate the spill.
 
Fifteen vacuum trucks remained on the scene for cleanup, and 33 storage tanks were deployed to temporarily store the oil.
 
The pipeline was carrying Canadian Wabasca Heavy crude at the time of the leak. An oil spill of more than 1,000 barrels into a Wisconsin field from an Enbridge Inc. pipeline last summer kept that line shuttered for around 11 days.
 
The 848-mile (1,381 km) pipeline used to transport crude oil from Texas to Illinois. In 2006 Exxon reversed it to move crude from Illinois to Texas in response to growing Canadian oil production and the ability of U.S. Gulf Coast refineries to process heavy crude.
 
The Arkansas spill drew fast reaction from opponents of the 800,000 bpd Keystone XL pipeline, which also would carry heavy crude from Canada's tar sands to the Gulf Coast refining hub.
 
Environmentalists have expressed concerns about the impact of developing the oil sands and say the crude is more corrosive to pipelines than conventional oil. On Wednesday, a train carrying Canadian crude derailed in Minnesota, spilling 15,000 gallons of oil.
 
“Whether it's the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, or ... (the) mess in Arkansas, Americans are realizing that transporting large amounts of this corrosive and polluting fuel is a bad deal for American taxpayers and for our environment,” said Representative Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat.
 
Supporters of Keystone XL and oil sands development say the vast Canadian reserves can help drive down fuel costs in the United States. A report from the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, put together by oil and gas consultancy Penspen, argued diluted bitumen is no more corrosive than other heavy crude.
 
A year ago Exxon won a court appeal to charge market rates on the Pegasus line, or rates that are not capped and that can change along with market conditions without prior approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
 
That decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. said the Pegasus pipeline is now the “primary avenue” to move Canadian crude oil to the Gulf Coast. The ruling also said Exxon moves about 66,000 barrels per day on the line.
 
Last week PHMSA proposed that Exxon pay a $1.7 million fine over pipeline safety violations stemming from a July 2011 oil spill from its Silvertip pipeline in the Yellowstone River. The line, which carries 40,000 barrels per day in Montana, leaked about 1,500 barrels of crude after heavy flooding in the area.
 
Exxon has 30 days from the March 25 order to contest those violations.
 
According to PHMSA, the U.S. has 2.3 million miles of pipelines.
 
Cleanup
 
Exxon said that by 3 a.m. Saturday there was no additional oil spilling from the pipeline and that trucks had been brought in to assist with the cleanup. Images from local media showed crude oil snaking along a suburban street and spewed across lawns.
 
An Exxon Mobil pipeline carrying Canadian crude oil was shut off after a ruptured on Friday causing an evacuation of 22 homes, Mar. 31, 2013.An Exxon Mobil pipeline carrying Canadian crude oil was shut off after a ruptured on Friday causing an evacuation of 22 homes, Mar. 31, 2013.
x
An Exxon Mobil pipeline carrying Canadian crude oil was shut off after a ruptured on Friday causing an evacuation of 22 homes, Mar. 31, 2013.
An Exxon Mobil pipeline carrying Canadian crude oil was shut off after a ruptured on Friday causing an evacuation of 22 homes, Mar. 31, 2013.
Twenty-two homes in the affected subdivision remained evacuated on Sunday, though Mayflower police were providing escorts for residents to temporarily return to retrieve personal items.
 
Jeffers said a couple of homes “appear to have small amounts of oil on their foundations,” but he had no information on damage estimates or claims. Exxon had established a claims hotline for affected residents and said about 50 claims had been made so far.

Dodson said oil that made it to the street went into storm drains that eventually lead to a cove connected to nearby Lake Conway, known as a fishing lake stocked with bass, catfish, bream and crappie.

He said local responders that included firemen, city employees, county road crews, police quickly built dikes of dirt and rock to block culverts along that path that stopped crude from fouling the lake.

“We were just in the nick of time,” he said. Exxon later deployed 3,600 feet of boom near the lake as a precaution.
 
Dodson said crude also got into several homeowners' yards, which will take longer to clean up.

“We've just gotten used to having pipelines go through cities and counties, and you hope something like this doesn't happen. My heart goes out to all of the people personally impacted,” Dodson said.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs