Big Oil and its political supporters have been lobbying hard to make the Keystone XL pipeline a reality. They say the project will provide much-needed jobs and reduce high prices at the gas pump (both false claims). Most importantly, they say it’s perfectly safe for people and the environment. And the State Department agrees.
Too bad reality tells a different story. On Friday, the much smaller ExxonMobil Pegasus pipeline, which brings Canadian crude oil from Illinois to Texas, ruptured, leaking at least 80,000 gallons of oil into the Central Arkansas town of Mayflower.
Authorities are still investigating the cause of the spill, reported CBS News. The city said Saturday that it recommended that 22 area homes be evacuated. On Friday, officials put the number of homes at dozens.
“The size of the spill remains unclear,” reports Lisa Song of Inside Climate News. “…the Environmental Protection Agency has estimated the spill at 84,000 gallons. The EPA and the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management did not return calls for comment.”
According to ExxonMobil, the breach was in a pipeline that originates in Illinois and carries crude oil to the Texas Gulf Coast. This particular pipeline, the Pegasus, has a daily capacity of 96,000 barrels of oil per day. Like the proposed Keystone XL, it travels near lakes, waterways, and as you can see here, people’s homes. “Had the spill occurred on either Lake Maumelle or the Maumelle River,” writes Chris Tackett for TreeHugger, “this would have been a huge disaster for Arkansas.”
Unlike the Pegasus, however, the Keystone XL, would have a carrying 1.1 million barrels of oil per day. And in case you hadn’t heard, it would be routed over the top of the Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska, the source of 30 percent of America’s drinking water.
It’s hard to see how intelligent politicians and community leaders could ignore what’s happening in Arkansas right now. It’s just a shadow of what is likely to happen with the Keystone XL. After all, existing portions of the Keystone pipeline have suffered multiple leaks already, and new portions are being put into the ground despite photographic proof that they’re full of holes. And Keystone XL builders have already indicated that the pipeline would not utilize advance leak detection technology.
So, if the Keystone XL eventually passes through your town, you could come home to a lawn full of oil. And this time, the joke really will be on us.