Arkansas Oil Pipeline Spill: A Warm-Up for Keystone XL?

The NewsHour's Judy Woodruff asks pointed questions to Anthony Swift, of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Andy Black, president of the Association of Oil Pipe Lines, about the latest spill involving oil sands crude. The two agree on little.

2 minute read

April 6, 2013, 1:00 PM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


The 65-year-old Pegassus pipeline, owned and operated by Exxon-Mobil oil and gas company and running from Illinois to Texas, ruptured on March 29 in suburban Mayflower, Arkansas, outside of Little Rock, sending "between 3,500 and 5,000 barrels of a type of heavy crude called diluted bitumen from the tar sands of Western Canada" into the streets of this small city. Seven years ago it reversed it's oil flow direction so as to send Canadian oil to Gulf refineries, and switched to bitumen from thinner crude.

While "the Pegasus pipeline is capable of transporting 96,000 barrels of oil a day...the proposed Keystone XL pipeline extension...would carry 800,000 barrels a day of diluted bitumen crude over 1,700 miles, from the tar sands of Western Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas", states Woodruff in the introduction to this NewsHour panel discussion.

Is this calamity in Mayflower a precursor on a small scale for what we might expect with Keystone XL?

It didn't take long to for the two panelists to stake out opposing positions on most aspects of the spill.

ANTHONY SWIFT: (W)e have found that with tar sands spills, these are spills that are more difficult to clean. A similar spill in Kalamazoo, Mich., became the most expensive onshore pipeline spill in history, much because of the unique behavior of tar sands when it spills.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, what are you saying, that there's something particularly complicated about this kind of oil?

ANTHONY SWIFT: That's exactly right... It's basically a mixture of very thick bitumen, which is solid at room temperature, and volatile petrochemicals that are very toxic once they reach the air...

ANDREW BLACK: It's no more complicated, Judy (to be sending this kind of bitumen crude across the country).  And the Department of State (re., their recent report on the pipeline) found that there are no more corrosive elements of crude from Western Canada as there are from California, Venezuela, Mexico. Crude has been safely moved for decades.

ANTHONY SWIFT: Well, it's simply not true.....

And so the dialog went - cordial but clearly taking opposing sides on the safety of pipelines and movement of bitumen crude as each explained their position in great detail. Woodruff summed it up perfectly when she stated, "It sounds like what the two of you are saying doesn't reconcile."

The eleven minute video of the panel discussion appears above the text.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013 in PBS NewsHour

Green rapid transit bus pulled into station in dedicated lane.

Indiana Once Again Considering Ban on Dedicated Transit Lanes

The proposed legislation would impact the construction of planned IndyGo Blue Line, the third phase of the city’s bus rapid transit system.

February 25, 2024 - Fox 59

Aerial view of New York City architecture with augmented reality visualization, blue digital holograms over buildings and skyscrapers

4 Ways to Use AI in Urban Planning and City Design

With the ability to predict trends, engage citizens, enhance resource allocation, and guide decision-making, artificial intelligence has the potential to serve as planners’ very own multi-tool.

February 20, 2024 - ArchDaily

View from shore of Sepulveda Basin water catchment basin with marsh plants along shore.

LA’s ‘Spongy’ Infrastructure Captured Almost 9 Billion Gallons of Water

The city is turning away from stormwater management practices that shuttle water to the ocean, building infrastructure that collects and directs it underground instead.

February 25, 2024 - Wired

Ice fishing tents surrounded by fence in Safe Outdoor Space for unhoused people in parking lot in Denver, Colorado.

An Affordable Housing Model for Indigenous Americans

Indigenous people make up a disproportionately high percentage of the unhoused population, but many programs designed to assist them don’t reach those most in need.

March 1 - High Country News

An electric bicycle is shown with the legs of a human who is riding the e-bike.

Oregon Bill Would Ban E-Bikes for Riders Under 16

State lawmakers seek to change Oregon e-bike laws following the death of a 15-year old last summer.

March 1 - Oregon Capital Chronical

Aerial view of canal cut into beach in Charlestow, Rhode Island with boats parked in sand.

Northeastern Waterways More Polluted After Wet Year

Intense rains washed more runoff into local bodies of water, while warmer temperatures contributed to the growth of an invasive bloom.

March 1 - University of Rhode Island

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.