When oil pipelines rupture, people pay

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Before the 2013 Mayflower ExxonMobil disaster, people in Arkansas believed crude oil pipelines were safe, and if something happened, government agencies and oil companies would be ready to care for the communities and the environment. The response to 210,000 gallons of highly toxic diluted bitumen (dilbit) pouring down the streets and homes was insufficient, inadequate, and irresponsible.

No one really knows the volume of dilbit spewing from a ruptured pipe; the estimate came from the company trying to avoid liability. To get around clean air and clean water Environmental Protection regulations, ExxonMobil argued dilbit was not crude oil. In August 2017 the case was dismissed by a Federal Court of Appeals saying, “The unfortunate fact of the matter is that, despite adherence to safety guidelines and regulations, oil spills still do occur.” ExxonMobil took a known risk and people paid.

Crude Denial

The Arkansas Congressional Delegation, Gov. Hutchinson, the State Attorney General, and most elected officials have chosen to side with Valero and Plains All American (PAA) – Diamond. They have ignored public health and environmental concerns for predictable crude oil spills. Public requests for a comprehensive environmental review have been ignored.

Willful blindness is a choice. Judge Lake, in the trial of Jeff Skilling and Kenneth Lay, Enron CEO and chairman said, “you are responsible if you could have known and should have known the facts.”

The law does not care why Gov. Hutchinson has chosen to remain silent. New information on the Valero Pipeline can’t be ignored. The line is not a common carrier, PAA plans to expand the capacity from 200,000 to 350,000 barrels per day, and the people of Arkansas will be left holding the bag.

Moving away from fossil fuels

There are plans in place to move away from burning fossil fuels. Transitioning to clean energy will stimulate our economy and protect our environment. California, New York, Hawaii, and other states are committed to address the climate crisis head-on, moving to a clean energy economy. Better jobs, better health, better future.

Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard recently introduced H.R. 3671, the “Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act” (OFF Act). The Act is to replace fossil fuels with 100 percent clean energy by 2035. This legislation eliminates tax giveaways to the fossil fuel industry, and provides support to workers who will be impacted by this change. The OFF Act sets a timeline to cut carbon emissions by ending America’s reliance on fossil fuels by 2035.

The Act is supported by several U.S. Representatives and endorsed by over 100 clean energy, climate, and environmental justice organizations.

Who needs the Valero Pipeline?

The Valero Pipeline is needed to pay tax-free distributions for Plains All American L.P. and Valero Energy Partners investors.

Oil refineries are not running out of crude. The oil and gas fracking boom turned out to be a bubble and the bulk pipelines will soon be dead snakes in the ground. Dry pipelines don’t leak, but abandoned pipelines are environmental hazards. PAA does not have plans to remove the underground pipeline, another fight for another day.

The Valero Memphis refinery has access to low-cost crude from the Gulf of Mexico using the PAA CapLine and the private Valero Collierville pipeline. Crude oil imports are low cost and reliable. Oil tankers deliver crude at $1 per barrel to the Port Arthur, Texas refinery, the largest in the U.S.

Interstate pipelines are 100-year unsustainable billion dollar investments. Becoming fossil fuel energy dominant is a dog dream. Electric cars and trucks with great safety features, the vehicles we have been dreaming about, will soon replace gasoline and diesel guzzlers. Millions of people making smart purchase decisions trump obsolete technologies.

Tax incentives for Master Limited Partnerships and the cost of fresh water, wastewater disposal, earthquakes, aquifer contamination, toxic refinery pollution, and greenhouse emissions from internal combustion engines are ignored by climate deniers.

Rise and support the OFF Act

Everyone in Arkansas needs to come together, asking Gov. Hutchinson to stop construction and order a comprehensive project review of the Diamond Pipeline. Remember Mayflower.

Dr. Luis Contreras