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Inside the Exxon Oil Spill in Arkansas

Apr 6, 2013

Welcome to InsideClimate News' expert and comprehensive coverage of the Exxon oil spill in Arkansas.

Dedicated reporters filing from Mayflower, Ark., Washington D.C., New York, Boston and California.



Be sure to read our award-winning account of the million-gallon pipeline rupture in Kalamazoo, Mich. in 2010, similar to this heavy oil spill in Arkansas.



Exxon to Reopen Ruptured Arkansas Pipeline, but Cause of Its Failure Remains Unknown

Exxon laid out its intentions Monday to reopen the 650-mile northern section of the Pegasus, saying the investigation into the Arkansas spill is complete.

Keeping Secrets Has Been Exxon's Default in Ark. Oil Spill Case

From the time Exxon's Pegasus ruptured one year ago, there have been difficulties with getting spill-related information to the public.

One Year After Exxon's Arkansas Spill, 8 Crucial Questions Still Unanswered

What caused Exxon’s Pegasus pipeline to split apart while the line was running well below maximum pressure? It's still anyone's guess.

Exxon, PHMSA Withholding Key Documents on Pegasus Pipeline as Restart Nears

Residents have been left in the dark about whether the Texas leg of the idled Pegasus has been made safe. The 211-mile segment could reopen this week.

Exxon Gets Extension for Pipeline Repair Plan, Key Questions Still Unanswered

After nine months, there's still no discussion of what actually caused the Pegasus pipeline to split apart and spill oil across an Ark. community.

Pegasus pipeline

VIDEO - Shattered by Oil: Exxon Arkansas Spill and the People Left Behind, Part 1

'It's too late for anything to happen. It's too late for us. We want them to get this mess cleaned up and get it cleaned up right.'

VIDEO - Shattered by Oil: Exxon Arkansas Spill and the People Left Behind, Part 2

Fears for the future: About one in four people in Arkansas counts on drinking water from a source that is crossed by Exxon's burst Pegasus pipeline.

A Neighborhood Shattered: Families Emptying Out of Oil-Hit Arkansas Town

Half the families in the 62-home subdivision that bore the brunt of Exxon's spill are leaving their homes in search of a fresh start they never wanted.

Exxon Overlooked, Masked Safety Threats in Years Before Pegasus Pipeline Burst

Selective risk reporting caused Exxon to underestimate the vulnerability of the pipe that passed through Mayflower, Ark., federal regulators said.

Why Is Exxon Taking Its Time Restarting Its Ruptured Dilbit Pipeline?

Even though the lengthy outage is costing the company as much as $450,000 a day in lost revenue—about $90 million so far—Exxon is proceeding slowly.

Officials assess the break in ExxonMobil's 838-mile Pegasus pipeline

Dilbit in Exxon's Pegasus May Have Contributed to Pipeline's Rupture

Experts say the heavier, high-sulfur oil from Canada could have created bigger pressure swings and promoted crack growth in the old, flawed pipe.

Exclusive: Pipeline Safety Chief Says His Regulatory Process Is 'Kind of Dying'

With 'few tools to work with,' PHMSA's Jeffrey Wiese says he is creating a YouTube channel to persuade industry to voluntarily improve safety.

Jeffrey Wiese, PHMSA's associate administrator for pipeline safety

In Exxon Pipeline Relocation Push, Zero Risk to Drinking Water Is the Goal

Only one manually-operated valve exists along the watershed's pipeline. About a million gallons of oil could escape in the time it could take to close it.

Central Arkansas Water's John Tynan

Five Months After Oil Spill, Sickened Mayflower Residents Offered Free Health Assessments

'We've been listening to people and trying to figure out what our role can be,' an Ark. Department of Health rep said. 'This is what we've come up with.'

In the Path of Exxon's Pegasus Pipeline Across Arkansas: People, Water, Farms (Part 2)

The broken pipe snakes through a crucial Ark. watershed where there's only one shut-off valve for the line, a fact that is making state officials nervous.

In the Path of Exxon's Pegasus Pipeline Across Arkansas: People, Water, Farms (Part 1)

The burst pipeline runs through a golf course, a berry farm, a daycare center, rivers. People along the route wonder, what if it had happened to us?

Conway resident Megan Brown with a Pegasus map.

Exxon Pipeline Rupture: Amount of Oil Spilled Is Still Guesswork

So far about 2,000 barrels of oil have been recovered in Arkansas. The actual amount of spilled oil is far more than that, but may never be figured out.

Pegasus pipeline cleanup

Burst Pipeline's Spill Plan Is None of Your Business, Suggests Regulator

PHMSA has released ExxonMobil's spill response plan for the ruptured Pegasus pipeline—but most of the crucial elements have been completely redacted.

Sediment Tests Will Show If Mayflower Residents Saved Their Treasured Lake from Oil Spill

Firefighters and public works employees used dump trucks and backhoes to dam a sudden river of crude flowing toward the lake. Did oil still seep through?

Jimmie Joe Johnson, Arkansas oil spill

Exxon Knew Its Ruptured Pipeline Was Old, Defective and Brittle, and Still Added New Stresses

Industry experts say vulnerable pipelines like the one that failed in Arkansas can operate safely—but only if they're carefully monitored and maintained.

Six Things Exxon Likely Knew About Its Pegasus Pipeline Before It Ruptured (Slideshow)

Based on industry studies and ExxonMobil's own records for the Pegasus pipeline, the oil company knew or should have known the following six facts that help explain what went wrong in this year's oil spill in the North Woods neighborhood of Mayflower, Ark., a town of 2,300 people located about 20 miles northeast of Little Rock.

Exxon Axes Housing Aid for Ark. Oil Spill Victims—Then Reinstates It After Fury

Some homeowners were told Exxon would end payments for temporary housing on Aug. 31. Then local politicians spoke up and Exxon reversed course.

The Pegasus pipeline rupture site in the North Woods neighborhood

InsideClimate News, Arkansas Times Reach Funding Goal to Conduct Oil Spill Investigation

An innovative national-local collaboration to investigate the Exxon oil spill in Mayflower, Ark., raises more than $25,000 in about three weeks.

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel

Exxon's Secrecy Over Ruptured Pipeline Could Mask National Dangers

Reports that would reveal whether Exxon properly maintained its Pegasus pipeline are being kept from the public. The data has national ramifications.


Tar ball on the edge of a cove in Mayflower, Ark. in the wake of Exxon's Pegasus

Full Extent of Heavy Metal Contamination in Exxon Oil Spill Still Unknown

Levels of manganese, a neurotoxin, in the cove and in a nearby creek were 10, 20 or nearly 30 times above the EPA's safety standard for tap water.

Oil spill cleanup in the cove area of Lake Conway

Sickened by Exxon Oil Spill, Victims Face Confusion of Officials and Doctors

One infant, coughing and wheezing, was first treated with asthma medication, then with antibiotics for a severe respiratory infection.

Mayflower, Ark. oil spill cleanup

Narrow and Flawed, Federal Pipeline Safety Study Fails to Settle Controversy

Tar sands oil poses no greater risk to pipelines, study says, but is mum on question of its relative danger to humans and the environment when spilled.

Spilled oil in a creek in Mayflower, Ark.

InsideClimate News, Arkansas Times Launch Campaign to Crowdfund Oil Spill Reporting Project

An innovative national-local collaboration to investigate the Exxon oil spill in Mayflower, Ark., raises 25 percent of its target on the first day.

white paper towels scattered over the oil near the site of ExxonMobil's March 29

With Unusual Speed Officials Slap Exxon with Oil Spill Lawsuit. Why?

The suit that state and federal officials recently filed could signal they are especially upset with Exxon's conduct. It could also be politics as usual.

Stream near the site of ExxonMobil's Arkansas spill in the town of Mayflower.

What Sickens People in Oil Spills, and How Badly, Is Anybody's Guess

There are no clear federal guidelines for chemical exposure at oil spills, and no studies to understand the long term dangers to human health.

Exxon: No Plans Yet To Reopen Ruptured Pipeline, and No Answers Why

The company has yet to release results of a sophisticated test of the 65-year-old pipeline's interior, conducted in February.

Cleaned area at Exxon pipeline spill in Arkansas

Arkansas Residents Sick From Exxon Oil Spill Are on Their Own

The Arkansas Department of Health says people with dizziness, nausea and headaches have the option to leave, and it is their personal choice.

Air quality equipment at the site of Exxon's Arkansas Oil Spill

Rep. Markey Asks Exxon CEO to Explain Contradictory Statements on Arkansas Oil Spill

Markey cites police reports, obtained by InsideClimate News, which reveal discrepancies and contradictions in Exxon's account of the pipeline spill.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)

Arkansas Oil Spill Shatters American Dream of Families Still Displaced From New Homes

Uprooted and anxious, Arkansans find themselves thrust into the debate about the Canadian oil that filled their streets and the safety of such pipelines.

Clean-up workers at the site of Exxon's pipeline spill

One Month After Exxon’s Arkansas Oil Spill, Still No Answers to Basic Questions

When was the leak first detected, by whom, and how long had it been going on? Answers are crucial to the national debate over Keystone and pipeline safety.

 Picture of the tear in ExxonMobil's Pegasus pipeline, Duncan Firm

Arkansas Oil Spill Damage Assessment: If Not the Feds, Then Who?

For now, two state agencies will little experience in dealing with major oil spills are in charge of surveying and counteracting the ecological damage.

 Oil from Exxon's ruptured Pegasus pipeline

Arkansas AG on Why He's Taking Exxon Spill Probe Into His Own Hands

Dustin McDaniel is on a mission to resolve the many unanswered questions about the March 29 pipeline rupture. 'The timeline is going to be very important.'

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel

Ark. Oil Spill Probe Falls to Understaffed Agency With Close Industry Ties

Underfunded agency faces the challenge of finding answers to key questions: When did Exxon's pipeline rupture and when did the company learn of the spill?

PHSMA Exxon oil spill

Dilbit or Not? Wabasca Crude Is the Question

"Can the oil accurately be described as tar sands oil, or a type of diluted bitumen (dilbit)?" the EPA asked in an April 5 letter to Exxon.

Annotated map showing the Wabasca oil field, circled in red, as oil sands

Exxon's 22-Foot Rupture Illustrates Tremendous Operating Pressure of Oil Pipelines

Exxon oil spill in Arkansas demonstrates how quickly pipeline accidents can turn into catastrophe.

Exxon Oil Spill Arkansas

Exxon Didn't Know Its Pipeline Ruptured Until Called by Arkansas Authorities. Or Did It?

Police transcripts show Exxon employees arrived on the scene an hour after the emergency was first reported by a resident dialing 911.

Exxon Oil Spill

Cove Where Exxon Oil Has Been Found Is Part of Lake Conway

Local wetlands experts say that oil is in the lake, and Exxon tweaks its message.

Exxon Oil Spill Arkansas

Exxon Oil Spill Cleanup in Path of Severe Weather, Maybe a Tornado

As the weather turns nasty, Exxon spent part of Tuesday deploying additional boom to prevent oil from moving further towards the main body of Lake Conway.

Exxon Oil Spill Arkansas

Arkansans Want Exxon Pipeline Moved Out of a Watershed, and Nebraskans Take Note

People in Nebraska are asking: If a pipeline that already exists needs to be moved in Arkansas, why route the Keystone through the Ogallala aquifer?

Exxon Oil Spill Arkansas

The Exxon Oil Spill in Mayflower, Arkansas: Slide Show of Annotated Photographs and Maps

Exxon Oil Spill Arkansas 

Exxon Oil Spill Could Be 40% Larger Than Company Estimates, EPA Figures Show

Since ExxonMobil’s Pegasus pipeline ruptured and leaked Canadian oil across an Arkansas suburb a week ago, the company has maintained that only "a few thousand barrels" spilled at the site.

Exxon Oil Spill Arkansas

InsideClimate News Reporter Threatened With Arrest at Exxon Oil Spill Site in Arkansas

InsideClimate News reporter Lisa Song was threatened with arrest on Wednesday after she entered the command center for the cleanup operation of the Exxon oil spill in Arkansas.

Exxon Oil Spill Arkansas

Exxon Oil Spill Leaves Arkansas Neighborhood in Shock

Nearly a week after a burst pipeline spilled tar sands crude through their streets, residents of this tiny community are without answers and overwhelmed.

Exxon Oil Spill Arkansas

Federal Rules Don't Control Pipeline Reversals like Exxon's Burst Pegasus

Risks of using an aging pipeline network for Canadian heavy oil, well-known to industry and discussed over many years, have never been addressed. The Exxon oil spill in Arkansas finally might change that.

Exxon Oil Spill Arkansas

At Oil Spill Clean Up in Arkansas, Exxon Running the Show, Not Federal Agencies

Jay Carney, White House Spokesperson, said the EPA is the federal on-scene coordinator, but the reality on the ground at the Exxon oil spill in Arkansas is a different story.

Exxon Oil Spill Arkansas

Federal Agencies Asked to Delay Keystone over Pipeline Safety Issues 

The Exxon pipeline spill in Mayflower, Ark. illustrates concerns outlined in 54-page petition that EPA and PHMSA must now respond to.

Exxon Oil Spill Arkansas

Exxon Confirms Pipeline in Arkansas Spilled Canadian Dilbit

Dilbit is a heavy oil mixed with lighter diluents to flow through pipelines, but it is much more difficult to clean up from water sources. Now it is all over an Arkansas neighborhood.

 Exxon Oil Spill Arkansas

A Dilbit Primer: How It's Different from Conventional Oil

Bitumen extracted from tar sands has the consistency of peanut butter and must be diluted to flow through pipelines. And that's just the beginning.

Exxon Oil Spill Arkansas

The Dangers of Diluted Bitumen

New York Times Op-Ed

Exxon Oil Spill Arkansas



 Other Coverage of Relevance

The Tar Sands Pipeline Boom: Exclusive Map

The Keystone XL is just one of many pipelines in the works to export Canadian heavy oils to global markets.

Exxon Oil Spill Arkansas
Upstart Pipeline Company Staking its Future on Stopping Heavy Oil Corrosion

The oil industry knows heavy oil is more corrosive than sweet crude, and MesoCoat says it has pipe-coating technology to solve the problem.

Exxon Oil Spill Arkansas

Keystone XL Would Not Use Most Advanced Spill Protection Technology

It would cost less than $10 million—roughly 0.2 percent of the Keystone XL's budget—to add safeguards to protect the crucial Ogallala aquifer from spills.

Exxon Oil Spill Arkansas

Enbridge Restarted Ruptured Pipeline Twice During Oil Spill

Control room technicians 1,500 miles away didn't understand that the 16 high priority alarms that sounded were warning them of a leak.

Exxon Oil Spill Arkansas

Few Oil Pipeline Spills Detected by Much-Touted Technology

Analysis of a decade of federal data shows general public detected far more spills than leak detection technology.

Exxon Oil Spill Arkansas

Ogallala Aquifer Report Fails to Settle Concerns over Oil Spill Risk

A thorough and adequate study of the impacts has not been done, a scientist says; it's a rigorous and comprehensive review, says TransCanada's CEO.

Exxon Oil Spill Arkansas

Critical Part of Keystone Report Done by Firms with Deep Oil Industry Ties

Two consulting firms provided State Department with key analysis of whether the pipeline would speed development of Canada's oil sands.

Exxon Oil Spill Arkansas

Koch Brothers' Political Activism Protects Their 50-Year Stake in Canadian Heavy Oils

Long involvement in Canada's tar sands has been central to Koch Industries' evolution and positions the billionaire brothers for a new oil boom.

Exxon Oil Spill Arkansas

Is Dilbit Oil? Congress and the IRS Say No

Dilbit is exempt from an oil tax that is used to clean up conventional crude and dilbit spills. The exemption is worth $35 million a year, and growing.

Exxon Oil Spill Arkansas

Oil Sands Mining Uses Almost as Much Energy as It Produces

Thanks to high global oil prices, industry can afford the large amount of energy needed to extract the oil and turn it into a usable fuel.

Exxon Oil Spill Arkansas

The Dilbit Disaster: Inside the Biggest Oil Spill You've Never Heard of

The award-winning and groundbreaking story of what happens to a community when a pipeline bursts and releases a million gallons of heavy oil from Canada into its midst.

Exxon Oil Spill Arkansas

Exxon Oil Spill in Arkansas Photos Courtesy of EPA

Exxon Oil Spill Arkansas

Exxon Oil Spill Arkansas

 

Exxon Oil Spill Arkansas