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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Exxon pipeline spill: questions continue

Posted By on Sat, Apr 6, 2013 at 6:12 AM

Lots of questions, still not many specific answers backed by documents on whether Exxon Mobil has followed pipeline inspection procedures and notice requirements down through the years on the pipeline that ruptured in Mayflower and left a mess that will be long in cleaning up.

Actions by the attorney general and in federal court may eventually get to some of the details.

Meanwhile, criticism continues. Channel 4 interviewed a former Exxon pipeline worker who questioned pipeline companies' commitment to necessary upgrades to maintain safety. He raised, too, a question mentioned here yesterday by another pipeline engineer about the wisdom of building new subdivisions over existing pipelines, as happened in Mayflower.

Considering the potential stress of building on top of a pipeline and the high pressure used when transporting heavy crude, Deaver said the developer of Northwoods should have worked with Exxon to reroute Pegasus around the neighborhood.

Other options, he said, include replacing the section of the pipeline with newer, stronger steel or burring it deeper under the ground.

But according to Deaver, pipeline companies have little incentive to take costly preventative action.

"Even if they get a fine the fine will be a small fraction of the cost to correct a dangerous condition," he said.

Public accountability remains a pressing issue. The Faulkner County judge disclaimed responsibility in refusing an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette FOI request for county records related to cleanup activities. This is on top of police-state actions by Faulkner County officials to let Exxon Mobil set rules on public access to affected areas. The secrecy is wrong. The delegation of authority to a private company is wrong. But Faulkner County officials are deeply in the thrall of the energy industry thanks to the Fayetteville shale play. Public interest takes a backseat.

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