US law says no ‘oil’ spilled in Arkansas, exempting Exxon from cleanup dues April 3, 2013
The central Arkansas spill caused by Exxon’s aging Pegasus pipeline has reportedly unleashed 10,000 barrels of Canadian heavy crude - but a technicality says it’s not oil, letting the energy giant off the hook from paying into a national cleanup fund.
At least legally speaking, diluted bitumen like the heavy crude that’s overrun Mayflower, Arkansas is not classified as 'oil.’ While the distinction might normally not mean much, in the case of the disastrous spill in Arkansas it ensures that ExxonMobil will not have to pay into the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.
According to ThinkProgress, which has brought attention on the strange legal exemption, ExxonMobil has already confirmed that the compromised pipeline was transporting “low-quality Wabasca Heavy crude” from Canada’s Alberta region. That particular form of crude must be diluted with lighter fluids to evenly flow through a pipeline - it also contains large quantities of bitumen (commonly known as asphalt).
The end result is that both the US Congress and the Internal Revenue Service do not consider tar sand oil as oil at all, and thus exempt any company transporting the crude from paying an $0.08-per-barrel tax - which is the primary source of cash for the federal government’s oil spill cleanup fund.
The strange exemption of heavy bitumen crude from classification as oil dates back to a time when the extraction of tar sands on a large scale was thought improbable with then-contemporary technology. However, as oil companies developed the means to develop Canadian tar sands into a booming energy sector, the legal definition of oil has remained the same.
Funds from that same fund have already helped to clean up another spill caused by a ruptured pipeline. In 2010, more than 1 million barrels of diluted bitumen (crude oil) were spilled into the Kalamazoo River. To make matters worse, unlike conventional crude oil, bitumen heavy crude sinks. The ensuing environmental impact has made that Michigan spill the most expensive in US history, as toxic substances seeped into the surrounding soil.
There is also the fear that bitumen heavy crude could be more corrosive to pipelines than conventional crude. Lorne Stockman, research director at Oil Change International, told ThinkProgress that it’s past time for the law to be changed:
“The question is why we should continue this exemption given that it’s clear tar sands oil is more likely to spill because it’s more corrosive… and more and more tar sands is coming into the US.”
For its part the oil industry disputes the claim, and has produced scientific impact research that does not reflect higher corrosion by transporting bitumen heavy crude.
Judge Allen Dodson of Arkansas’ Faulkner County seemed to reflect the concerns of those impacted by the latest spill of heavy bitumen crude, saying: “Crude oil is crude oil. None of it is real good to touch.”
As the Obama administration deliberates on the Keystone XL, two spills happened in the past week: this one in Arkansas & another in Minnesota, where 15,000 gallons of tar sands spilled from a derailed train.
(Reuters) - Exxon Mobil confirmed on Wednesday that an oil spill occurred Tuesday on its Pegasus crude pipeline in Ripley County, Missouri - the same line that ruptured thousands of barrels of oil into an Arkansas neighborhood at the end of March.
An Exxon spokeswoman said a resident notified the company of oil staining on the surface near the pipeline on Tuesday. The cleanup of the one-barrel leak was near completion, she said.
The pipeline was already out of service following a spill in Mayflower, Arkansas, on March 29, Exxon said.
Exxon was aware of climate change, as early as 1977, 11 years before it became a public issue, according to a recent investigation from InsideClimate News. This knowledge did not prevent the company (now ExxonMobil and the world’s largest oil and gas company) from spending decades refusing to publicly acknowledge climate change and even promoting climate misinformation—an approach many have likened to the lies spread by the tobacco industry regarding the health risks of smoking. Both industries were conscious that their products wouldn’t stay profitable once the world understood the risks, so much so that they used the same consultants to develop strategies on how to communicate with the public.
One of the big deals that ExxonMobil has announced in the past year involves access to the Russian Arctic, where it is partnered with a Russian firm to access many billions of dollars worth of reserves involving big investments ExxonMobil would make north of the Arctic Circle. Why is that oil accessible? It’s because sea ice is melting in the Arctic. Global warming may, in fact, unlock enormous opportunities for oil companies.
“ExxonMobil, largest oil company in the world, made $19 billion in profits in 2009, paid no federal income taxes. So if you’re a working stiff, you’re making $30,000, $40,000 a year, you’re paying taxes. But if you’re Chevron and you made $10 billion in profits in 2009, you don’t have to pay any taxes.” – Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Must read. Bloomberg blows the lid off of a DC front group that's funded by anti-environmental corporations with major stakes in reversing regulations. The group drafts bills for Republican legislators, who then bring the issue to the floor and public to attack climate change, EPA, enviro-regs, and more.
When our arms become touchscreens, will our brains become holograms?
Some engineers think this could be the next big thing in wearable tech. It’s a bracelet that can project a screen onto your skin and sense where your finger is when you touch it. Instant tablet computer, right on your arm.
Some engineers think this could be the next big thing in wearable tech. It’s a bracelet that can project a screen onto your skin and sense where your finger is when you touch it. Instant tablet computer, right on your arm. Learn more here.
Hillary Clinton is now supporting a federal investigation of ExxonMobil following the latest disclosures that the giant oil company worked to hide the effects of climate change. Her call for an investigation comes only months after the company decided to stop sponsoring her family’s foundation.
The Clinton Foundation has accepted at least $1 million from ExxonMobil, despite the company’s history of financing challenges to climate science. And Clinton’s State Department touted ExxonMobil as an example of how America should look at Iraq as “a business opportunity.”
Clinton’s new call for a Justice Department investigation into ExxonMobil follows a similar call made by her Democratic presidential rivals Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders. She declared in New Hampshire Thursday that a probe was now justified because “there’s a lot of evidence that they misled” the public on the effects of climate change. There has long been ample evidence of ExxonMobil’s role in promoting “skeptics” who challenge widely accepted climate science.
Reporter: Will you call on the Dep. of Justice to investigate Exxon Mobile?
Clinton: Yes! Yes they Should! Yea well there’s a lot of evidence that they mislead people right?
In a special comic handed out at Epcot’s 1985 “Universe Of Energy” exhibit (sponsored by Exxon), Mickey and Goofy teach kids about how awesome the oil industry is, and how corporate brainwashing is a small price to pay to wait for the line at Space Mountain to thin out a little. Right away, Mickey starts telling us about the wonders of American oil while Goofy behaves like his usual dipshit self. The comic features Mickey showcasing the different ways that the oil industry is benefiting the world, accomplishing the impressive task of making a character whose face has been plastered on every conceivable product seem like even more of a sellout.
ExxonMobil’s oil spill emergency response plan is redacted by the federal government. Not a joke.
Burst Pipeline’s Spill Plan Is None of Your Business, Suggests Regulator
Federal regulators have released ExxonMobil’s 2013 emergency response plan for the pipeline that ruptured in an Arkansas residential neighborhood on March 29, but the document is so heavily redacted that it offers little information about Exxon’s preparations for such an accident.
I did a separate post, describing a report by Inside Climate News concluding that Exxon knew 50 years ago that carbon emissions were causing the climate to change and that the changes would eventually become significant, with serious consequences to the planet. Here’s the link to that post. This post is an infographic telling us who knew what when at Exxon……a good quick review of the developments from the 1970′s through today.