New Photos From Keystone XL Debate: 'Imagine Arkansas Spill Times Ten'
Climate catastrophe would follow tar sands development and spills inevitable, say campaigners
New aerial photos from above Mayflower, Arksansas released by Greenpeace on Tuesday show the extent of the devastation caused by the ruptured Pegasus pipeline, owned by oil giant ExxonMobil, as residents from the town spoke out and climate campaigners continued to use the latest localized catastrophe to denounce the fossil fuel industry's destructive nature.
"Despite what oil companies like Exxon want you to believe, oil pipelines leak," said Greenpeace USA executive director Philip Radford. "It's what they do."
"Imagine the photos we're seeing from Arkansas times ten, and that overlaid over the Olgallala Aquifer in Nebraska—our nation's largest source of fresh water." --May Boeve, 350.org
"What's happening in Arkansas right now could be the future for communities from North Dakota to Texas if President Obama approves the Keystone XL pipeline," he continued. "There's a reason it's called 'dirty energy,' and it's time we put it behind us. Let's stop the spills and move forward with clean energy now."
Appearing on the debut episode of MSNBC's new evening show, All In with Chris Hayes, Vermont's independent Senator Bernie Sanders said on Monday night that the disaster in Arkansas is just the latest is a growing pile of evidence that the nation is on the wrong path in terms of its energy policy.
"It reminds me of what happened on the Gulf coast," Sanders said referring to the BP Deepwater Horizon spill of 2010. "It reminds me of the Exxon Valdez." But really, he said, it raises broader questions about whether or not the U.S. can continue its addiction to carbon-based fuels.
Citing climate scientists he speaks to as a member of the Senate Energy Committee, Sanders said the message is clear: "If we don't get our act together, and start cutting in a very significant way greenhouse gas emissions, we're talking about this planet heating up by 8 degrees fahrenheit by the end of the century. And that is calamitous for this planet."
Executive director of 350.org May Boeve, pointed out to audience members that the ruptured Pegasus pipeline is significantly smaller than the proposed Keystone pipeline, which would carry ten times the amount of tar sands oil.
Boeve said, "Imagine the photos we're seeing from Arkansas times ten, and that overlaid over the Olgallala Aquifer in Nebraska—our nation's largest source of fresh water."
Glen Hooks, president of the Arkansas chapter of Sierra Club, also appeared on the show. Standing in front of clean-up machinery at the spill site, he said that he would challenge lawmakers in his state to come and look at the damage done and still claim that whatever jobs might be created by new pipeline projects, like Keystone XL, are worth it.
If the state's congressional delegation wants to put "Arkansas first," Hooks said, "they might want to have a look at this." He also agreed with Sanders about the larger impact of such projects.
"This Keystone pipeline is bad news," Hooks said. "We don't need it. It's gonna shift the climate science in a way we can't afford."
Speaking with local residents, the Associated Press reports that the air quality had been impacted well beyond the immediate spill site:
"We live five miles out in the country and we've had the smell out there," Karen Lewis, 54, said outside a local grocery store. Its parking lot, like much of this small city, is teeming with cleanup crews and their trucks.
Meanwhile, in the neighborhood where the pipeline burst, workers in yellow suits waded in an oil-soaked lawn Monday as they tried to clean up part of the area where the spill began.
And Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced Tuesday that his office was opening a formal investigation of the spill, with the target squarely on ExxonMobil and their safety record. The first step in that process, he said, would be an order demanding the oil giant preserve all records pertinent to the case.
"This incident has damaged private property and Arkansas's natural resources. Homeowners have been forced from their homes as a result of this spill," McDaniel said. "Requesting that Exxon secure these documents and data is the first step in determining what happened and preserving evidence for any future litigation."
Photos from Reuters photographer Jacob Slaton captured the cleanup effort on the ground, which was ongoing Tuesday: