An oil spill in Arkansas Friday has thrown a new wrinkle into the already controversial debate over whether to proceed with the Keystone XL pipeline, which is currently under consideration by the Obama administration.
The leak, which Exxon Mobil described as “a few thousand” barrels of Canadian heavy crude, forced the evacuation of 22 homes about 25 miles north of Little Rock, The Washington Post reported.
The 20-inch wide Pegasus pipeline transmits 95,000 barrels a day from Patoka, Ill., to the Gulf Coast in Texas, the main refining center in the United States. An Exxon spokesman said it was carrying low-quality Wabasca Heavy crude from Alberta, Canada.
Massachusetts Rep. Edward J. Markey told the Post the leak is a harbinger of things to come if the Keystone project is allowed to proceed. Markey and other critics of Keystone argue that pipelines carrying low-quality crude from the Alberta oil sands are at greater risk of corrosion.
Markey, the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, told the newspaper the spill “is a troubling reminder that oil companies still have not proven that they can safely transport Canadian tar-sands oil” across the United States “without creating risks to our citizens and our environment.”
Trans Canada, which owns the Keystone system, reportedly has said the new pipeline would be much safer than any other part of the country’s 2.6 million miles of oil, gas, and chemical lines.
Exxon said that by Sunday afternoon, it had deployed 15 vacuum trucks and 33 storage tanks to Arkansas to begin cleaning up and temporarily storing about 12,000 barrels of oil and water that it had recovered.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency declared the leak a “major spill,” which applies to any breach of 250 barrels or more, the Post said.
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