Is Exxon trying to hide the damage from their Tar Sands pipeline spill?

by Jesse Coleman

April 4, 2013

Oil seeps into a marshy waterway near Interstate 40 after Exxon's Pegasus pipeline was shut down March 29, 2013, after a leak was discovered in a subdivision near the town of Mayflower, Arkansas, forcing the evacuation of 22 homes.

© Karen McCall / Greenpeace

[caption id="attachment_16915" align="alignnone" width="600" caption="Oil seeps into a marshy waterway after Exxon's Arkansas pipeline spill"][/caption] Sure seems like it. According to reports from the ground, Exxon is in full control of the response to the 12,000 barrels of tar sands oil that began spilling from Exxon's ruptured pipeline in Arkansas last weekend. The skies above the spill has been deemed a no-fly zone, and all requests to fly low over the area to take pictures must be approved by Exxons own aviation advisor Tom Suhrhoff. In addition, the entire area has been cordoned off and news media have been prevented from inspecting the damage. Now, Exxon is trying to limit access to the animals impacted by the tar sands crude. A wildlife management company hired by Exxon has taken over all oiled wild animal care. The company, called Wildlife Response Services, is now refusing to release pictures and documentation of the animals in their care, unless they are authorized by Exxons public relations department. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="A dead American Coot covered in oil from Exxon's Pegasus Pipeline"][/caption] The spill, which leaked heavy, viscous tar sands oil, emanates from the Pegasus Pipeline, which was built in the 1940s. The pipeline pumps a crude oil and tar mixture from the Alberta tar sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast, just like the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. However, the Pegasus is much smaller, carrying 90,000 barrels per day (BPD), while the Keystone would carry 800,000 BPD. Tar sands oil is shipped through pipelines in the form of diluted bitumen (dilbit), which must be heated and forced through the pipeline at high pressure. Due to the corrosive nature of the tar sands oil, which contains sand, plus the high temperature and high pressure needed to pump it through the pipes, tar sands oil pipelines are particularly dangerous. Exxons control of the oil spill response is reminiscent of the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, when the polluter, BP, effectively controlled the response and cleanup. We cannot afford another spill like this one. Tell President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline today.
Jesse Coleman

By Jesse Coleman

Jesse Coleman is a researcher with the Greenpeace Investigations team. His focus is on front groups, fracking, and the oil and gas industry. Jesse's work has been featured in The Guardian, The New York Times, The Colbert Report, Al-Jazeera, MSNBC, and NPR.

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