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McDaniel questions pipeline use

By John Lyon

Arkansas News Bureau

A year after more than 200,000 gallons of oil spilled in Mayflower, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel questioned Monday whether ExxonMobil would ever reopen the pipeline that ruptured and caused the spill.

An Exxon Mobile executive said on a Sunday news discussion program that the company does intend to reopen its Pegasus pipeline, although not until it can confirm that the pipeline is safe through testing that may take more than a year.

“I don’t understand how either the company or (the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) agrees to open one inch of this pipe until they conclusively say what happened in the first place,” McDaniel said Monday at the University of Arkansas School of Public Service during a panel discussion on the March 29, 2013, spill.

McDaniel said the spill remains “shrouded in mystery” and asked, “How in the world can they with any degree of certainty assure the government or the people that it is not about to happen again at any random time?”

ExxonMobil declined an invitation to take part in the panel discussion, according to the Clinton School’s dean, Skip Rutherford, but in an interview that aired Sunday on the television show “Talk Business & Politics,” ExxonMobil Vice President for U.S. Pipeline Operations Karen Tyrone said the company is submitting a remediation plan to PHMSA that calls for the pipeline to be subjected to a “spike hydrostatic test.”

The test will push water through the pipeline it at 1.39 times the maximum operating pressure to find weak points, Tyrone said. She said the plan may take another year or more.

Tyrone also said the company still considers the Pegasus pipeline “a very valuable asset.”

ExxonMobil has said a manufacturing defect caused the spill. Tyrone said in the interview that chemical makeup of the joint that ruptured was “different than we have ever seen.”

Rutherford, who moderated the discussion, asked Tammie Hynum, chief of the Hazardous Waste Division of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, “Would you eat fish caught by Lake Conway?”

“I personally do not eat fish, but what I can say is that … if I did, I would not hesitate to eat fish that were caught on Lake Conway,” she said.

The Mayflower spill forced the evacuation of 22 homes. About 20 lawsuits have been filed over the accident, including one by McDaniel and U.S. Attorney Christopher Thyer.

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