Sunday, March 31, 2013

Rainy days and Sundays

Posted By on Sun, Mar 31, 2013 at 9:51 AM

Hmmm. Late and not much to bring at this point, either:

* HAPPY EASTER: I did join a good crowd beneath the River Market pavilions for Pulaski Methodist's sunrise service this morning and did get to give a good hug to Swann Kohler, my old friend who got the ball rolling 25 years ago. She guessed correctly that it was my first visit. In her honor. Not sorry. Plenty of brass to accompany Handel, traditional hymns and gospel on a program rich with music.

Gov. Mike Beebe read from Luke. Not meaning to profane the occasion, but it occurred to me that Beebe could use a few miracles in the days ahead.

Our plan was to get our morning walk by walking downtown until Root Cafe opened at 9 a.m. But the skies threatened and soon cut loose. So we instead ate like Rockefellers — or should I say Stephenses — by going to Ashley's at the Capital Hotel. Luxurious and good. Fresh squeezed grapefruit juice. Poached eggs atop cheese-and-bacon yellow grits. A tender buttermilk biscuit with sorghum butter. Buckwheat cakes with sauteed apples. OK, you could get three breakfasts at Waffle House for the same money, but no tablecloth, no jazzy background music, no attention to the tiniest detail.

* OIL SPILL: It's secondary to the pressing issue of cleaning up Mayflower and reassuring people facing continuing environmental issues from the Exxon Mobil pipeline rupture Friday, but I continue to be interested in implications for such pipelines on Lake Maumelle, the water reservoir that the pipeline skirts. Martin Maner, retired manager of the watershed for Central Arkansas Water, provided a little background:

...the pipeline is a bit more than 60 years old, before the lake was built. It is laid on the "contour of the land," and is typically only a couple feet deep. It is exposed at several places as it crosses the watershed, especially as it crosses tributaries.

We started correspondence with ExxonMobil several years ago to try to get more protection in place. There should be an extensive file at CAW.

When I dug into the issue (after concerns raised by Barry Haas), I was astounded to learn that the then ExxonMobil spill plan didn't even mention that Lake Maumelle was a public water supply! We wrote a detailed letter to the federal regulatory agency (can't remember the name ... been a year or two) and didn't hear a peep on reply. ExxonMobil was cc'd and they did respond. Work was started towards a comprehensive spill plan but I don't think it has been finalized?? There was supposed to be a come to Jesus presentation by officials of ExxonMobil to CAW Board in first qtr of 2012 but seems that fell in the cracks after the new watershed management folks came on board after I retired. It's a helluva major concern because of the proximity to the lake and the volume of crude it carries. Maybe this rupture will get it back on point...

UPDATE: The spill is getting growing national attention in the context of the Keystone XL pipeline debate, the Koch-backed pet project of U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, who's beloved in the Mayflower region but not so much in his home territory of Little Rock. The coverage says the Exxon pipeline, known as Pegasus, carries the same kind of more environmentally problematic heavy crude from Canadian tar sands, which must be diluted for shipment and which contains more hazardous elements. The heavy crude is more corrosive to pipelines, say opponents of the Keystone project, which would be an even bigger pipeline. A typical bit of environmentalist commentary here:

In 2009, Exxon modified the capacity of the Pegasus pipeline, increasing the capacity to transport Canadian tar sands oil by 50 percent, or about 30,000 barrels per day. In a 2012 report, Bloomberg News reported the pipeline daily capacity to be 96,000 barrels of oil per day.

Tar sands oil is the most toxic fossil fuel on the planet, that leaves in its wake scarred landscapes, a web of pipelines, and polluting refineries.

Smells like money to Tiny Tim Griffin.

* TAX INCREASE FOR TRUCKERS? At the Capital Hotel, I ran into Lane Kidd, the trucking industry lobbyist. I asked him whatever happened to his promise in December, when I saw him at the same place, that the trucking industry would have a legislative proposal to make up for the diesel tax increase that never happened, even though it was supposed to be part of the bargain by which everybody else is paying an increased sales tax to keep highway contractors busy.

Kidd pointed me to something I'd missed. It is a bill by Sen. Keith Ingram, which I believe Kidd said came out of the Senate with one vote to spare, to increase the registration fee on the biggest trucks by 15 percent. The first $2 million is to be dedicated to a cooperative program between truckers and the Highway Department on commercial truck safety and education. That's all I know at this point. But I do know that any sort of tax increase is a tough proposition at this time, even though truckers owe the state plenty given favorable tax breaks and the immense damage they cause to interstates. The House is likely to be a hard fight. Does it matter that FedEx, with a major operation in Rep. John Burris' hometown, favors the tax increase? We'll see.

* ACCIDENT AT NUCLEAR ONE: Fox 16 reports an industrial accident at Entergy's Arkansas Nuclear One power plant near Russellville. Article indicates it is related to a generator construction project, not the nuclear reactor.

UPDATE: The state Health Department has issued a statement that the accident occurred in a "non-radiation area" and posed no threat to public health and safety.

UPDATE II: Entergy says that one worker was killed and three injured in what apparently was the dropping of a large piece of equipment.

* NOT RUNNING: Sen. Keith Ingram gave some thought to running for governor. Forget about it, he's told friends in an email.

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