April 29, 2013

Pipeline Safety in question after two spills in two weeks

Tar sands oil in a ditch in Mayflower, Ark., after an Exxon Mobil pipeline ruptured, forcing the evacuation of 22 homes.
Two recent oil pipeline spills have prompted new criticism from opponents of the proposed Keystone XL project, while raising more questions about whether the federal government is adequately monitoring the nation's vast labyrinth of pipelines.

An ExxonMobil pipeline ruptured March 29th, spilling more than 10,000 barrels of tar sands crude in an Arkansas town. On Tuesday April 2nd, vacuum trucks and crews were still working to clean up the accident, which the Environmental Protection Agency called a "major spill." 

The spill appears to be the largest accident involving heavy crude since an Enbridge Energy pipeline spill in 2010 that dumped more than 840,000 gallons near Marshall, Mich., soiling a 39-mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River.

The safety records of both the Exxon and Chevron pipelines have been under scrutiny in recent years. Last week, the pipeline agency proposed imposing a $1.7 million fine on Exxon Mobil over a 2011 spill that dumped an estimated 63,000 gallons of oil in the Yellowstone River in Montana.

The Arkansas spill followed an accident in Utah on March 18 in which a Chevron pipeline leaked more than 25,000 gallons in a wetlands area about 50 miles from Salt Lake City. The Chevron spill was the third in three years in Utah, prompting Gov. Gary R. Herbert to sharply criticize the pipeline agency at a recent news conference. "Obviously, they have not done a very good job of overseeing the pipes that travel between our states," he said. [NY Times]

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