By David Hasemyer
The lawsuit that state and federal officials in Arkansas filed last week against ExxonMobil is unusual, pipeline experts say, because government agencies usually wait much longer—sometimes even years—before filing lawsuits against companies involved in pipeline accidents.
Exxon's Pegasus pipeline ruptured on March 29, spilling at least 210,000 gallons of heavy Canadian crude oil into Mayflower, Ark. about 25 miles northwest of Little Rock.
"And this [the lawsuit] comes along three months after?" said Carl Weimer, executive director of the Pipeline Safety Trust, a nonprofit watchdog organization based in Bellingham, Wash. "There's something at work here we simply don't know about."
Philadelphia attorney Andy Levine, a former senior assistant regional counsel for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, described the legal strategy being pursued in Arkansas as "a head scratcher."
By Lisa Song
Since 2010, at least three ruptured pipelines have spilled oil into U.S. neighborhoods, forcing officials to decide quickly whether local residents would be harmed if they breathed the foul air. But because there are no clear federal guidelines saying if or when the public should be evacuated during an oil spill, health officials had to use a patchwork of scientific and regulatory data designed for other situations.
As a result, residents of the three communities received different levels of protection.
No houses were evacuated in Salt Lake City, Utah, where a ruptured pipeline leaked 33,000 gallons of medium grade crude oil before it was discovered on the morning of June 12, 2010. The oil ran down Red Butte Creek, past neighborhoods where windows were left open in the summer heat. The fumes, which are known to cause drowsiness, left some people so lethargic that they didn't wake up until after noon.
In Marshall, Mich. officials called for a voluntary evacuation after more than a million gallons of heavy Canadian crude spilled into the Kalamazoo River on July 25, 2010. But they agonized over the decision for four days before making that recommendation.
In Mayflower, Ark. authorities quickly evacuated 22 families after a broken pipeline leaked about 200,000 gallons of heavy crude on March 29, 2013. But people living in the same subdivision, just a few blocks away, were not asked to leave. Neither were the residents of the lakeside community where the oil eventually pooled and where the cleanup continues today.
By Katherine Bagley
Mainstream environmental groups in Illinois celebrated last month after state lawmakers approved a bill regulating fracking—a bill the environmental groups themselves had helped write in a unique collaboration with the fossil fuel industry and politicians.
Local grassroots groups, however, want fracking in Illinois stopped altogether, not simply regulated with legislation. They are not only protesting the law, but also their one-time allies.
"A lot of people feel betrayed and sold out," said Sandra Steingraber, an environmental health expert and Illinois native who has joined the anti-fracking grassroots campaign. For years, the grassroots groups had worked with mainstream organizations to persuade legislators to institute a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, she said. "Without consulting the grassroots, these compromise-oriented [mainstream] groups seemingly dropped the joint fight for a moratorium in favor of regulation written behind closed doors ... They were negotiating on our behalf without our permission."
Protesters against the Keystone Pipeline were arrested at a downtown federal building Monday morning.
Some 22 people were arrested for blocking the doors to the Metcalfe Federal Building, 77 W. Jackson Blvd., police said. They were cited for criminal trespass and released, police said.
The latest Climate Commission report has warned that 80 percent of global fossil fuel reserves will have to stay in the ground if the planet is to avoid dangerous climate change.
The paper says global emissions need to trend downward by the end of the decade to keep temperatures at a "manageable" level.
The company at the center of two major Alberta oil pipeline ruptures in recent years is cleaning up this weekend after a new 950-barrel spill of a very light oil called condensate, which is used to thin down heavy oil sands bitumen so it can be transported via pipeline.