Friday, July 29, 2016

Clarksville hopes PSC can help protect its watershed from pipeline

Posted By on Fri, Jul 29, 2016 at 1:49 PM

click to enlarge Clearing for Diamond Pipeline in Johnson County, from the "Diamond Pipeline and Johnson County, AR - What  You Need to Know" page on Facebook.
  • Clearing for Diamond Pipeline in Johnson County, from the "Diamond Pipeline and Johnson County, AR - What You Need to Know" page on Facebook.

Clarksville Light and Water Co. has asked the state Public Service Commission to be granted intervenor status in the application by Diamond Pipeline to cross five navigable state waterways to get oil from Oklahoma to Memphis. 

John Bethel, director of the PSC, said the staff had no objection to the petition. The decision on whether the utility can intervene should come soon, Bethel said. The utility filed its petition July 21; the PSC will hear Diamond Pipeline's application at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 18, 2016, at the PSC, 1000 Center St.

Clarksville Light and Water General Manager John Lester and members of the Clarksville City Council have expressed concerns that the oil pipeline will cross Big Piney Creek and Spadra Creek, which are water sources for Clarksville and other Johnson County towns, and could present a danger to the drinking water.

Lester said today the utility is working on an agreement with the pipeline company to fund an escrow account that would pay to move the water intake on Spadra Creek above the pipeline and make changes at Piney Bay. Two engineering firms have been hired to estimate the cost of mitigation. The utility might withdraw its petition after the account is created and funded, Lester said, but added, "If you do not keep their feet to the fire, they don't deliver on what they promise." The company also has complained about negative comments from the public, likely on the Diamond Pipeline and Johnson County, AR - What You Need To Know Facebook page. You can read our previous reporting on Clarksville's battle with Plains All American here.

The PSC is limited in its authority to deciding whether the project would impair commerce on or use of navigable waterways, Bethel said. Arkansas law gives common carrier pipeline companies the right of eminent domain; already, Alderman Danna Schneider said, much land has been cleared in Johnson County for the pipeline.

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