Last week, an oil pipeline operated by Exxon burst near a small Arkansas town, spilling thousands of gallons of crude oil and creating an enormous ecological emergency. Treehugger.com, a green consumer news source, reported on March 31 that over 80,000 gallons has leaked so far, much of it close to water sources in the region.
The event, which may cause lasting environmental damage, highlights a major concern among eco-friendly activists in the United States: that the energy industry isn't taking spill threats seriously enough. The accident is especially conspicuous as national lawmakers and the Obama administration debate the future of the Keystone XL project, which would stretch for over a thousand miles across the country and transport the same type of oil that spilled in Mayflower, Arkansas.
According to NPR, the pipeline in question has been in operation for over 65 years, strung over 800 miles between Illinois and Texas. While some state officials, like Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, have publicly called on Exxon to do more to maintain their pipes, it's unclear how the oil giant will change its practices due to some of the legal technicalities associated with the pipeline.
Exxon is reportedly exempting itself from paying into a national oil spill clean-up fund due to the official designation of the type of oil known as diluted bitumen, which technically classifies it as a non-regulated oil. This ultra-heavy crude includes a synthetic chemical additive which makes it easier to transport. However, because of this tweak in labeling, Exxon will not be forced to comply with the standards that apply to the rest of the oil industry.
It may be years before scientists and government officials determine the full extent of the damage, considering how recently the event occurred. Stay with LifeIsGreen.com as we monitor this situation closely and the facts continue to develop.