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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Exxon exec returns to Mayflower for one-year anniversary of Pegasus spill

Posted By on Wed, Mar 26, 2014 at 1:57 PM


Karen Tyrone, vice president of Exxon Mobil Pipeline Co., was in Mayflower yesterday for a press event with Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson and Mayflower Mayor Randy Holland. The Times notification about the event must've gotten lost in the mail. 

Tyrone said "we have confirmation that there remains no ecological risk in the cove, in the channels, in the neighborhood" from data collected collected by Exxon and recently approved by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. As we've reported, while Game and Fish agrees with the testing data, it doesn't concur with Exxon that no risk remains. There's still more remediation to come in Dawson Cove of Lake Conway, which Tyrone acknowledged. As Benji Hardy reported in this week's must-read cover story on the anniversary of the spill:

Oil sheen still regularly coats the waters of Dawson Cove, especially after a rain. The sorbent booms that are still installed in the cove keep trapping oil. ADEQ and Game and Fish want Exxon to implement further remediation steps, which might consist of removing additional soil, capping areas of sediment with a layer of clay, or injecting air into the sediment to force lingering petroleum to the surface.

"We want to make sure we evaluate several viable alternatives ... and select the most appropriate technology to restore Dawson Cove and the drainage areas back to pre-spill conditions," Hynum said.

Some of the jockeying between Exxon and Game and Fish is probably related to a Natural Resources Damage Claim that ADEQ and Game and Fish plan to file against Exxon to assess, as Attorney General Dustin McDaniel explained to Hardy, "damages as to the broader scope of what's the long-term impact to the environment — what are the financial costs to all of this." That lawsuit likely won't be filed until 2015.

One question I wish someone had asked Tyrone pointedly is whether Exxon plans to meet an April 7 deadline to complete a remedial work plan. Exxon has previously received two 90-day extensions from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). According to PHMSA, Exxon can continue to request extensions indefinitely. Sort of calls into question the meaning of "deadline," eh? I've asked an Exxon spokesman about the deadline. 

UPDATE: Spokesman Aaron Stryk said that Exxon plans to submit its restart plan by April 7.

Meanwhile, Central Arkansas Water is proceeding as if April 7 is a real deadline. CAW officials are travelling to Exxon headquarters in Houston on Friday to talk about Exxon's plans for restarting the pipeline. Spokesman John Tynan said CAW still hasn't gotten a full explanation of all of the contributing factors to the Pegasus rupture from Exxon. Naturally, the utility is chiefly interested in the pipeline as it relates to the Lake Maumelle Watershed, though Tynan added, "The causal and contributing factors should be things that people are aware of." 

Finally, InsideClimate News reports that pipeline experts believe that PHMSA is likely to soon approve Exxon's request to restart the 211-mile southern leg of the Pegasus in Texas. The restart plan Exxon submitted to PHMSA, which would contain information about steps Exxon is taking to make sure the pipeline is safe, hasn't been made public. InsideClimate News has FOIAed PHMSA to no avail. 

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