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This is a guest blog written by April Lane, a Bucket Brigade leader on the front lines in Arkansas.

oil spill 302On Friday March 29, 2013 an Exxon Mobile Pipeline ruptured sending oil some experts compare closely to tar sands oil through a subdivision in Mayflower, Ark. The pipeline blew at approximately 2 p.m. and was discovered by area residents soon after. The subdivision that sits right off of I-40, one of the busiest interstates in the state, never knew the pipeline was even there and it is just now being marked.This subdivision also sits just a creek and railroad track away from the Mayflower school. As the wave of oil made it through the subdivision it found a drainage ditch and then it hit the creek that runs down the side of the railroad tracks.  It ran to a pipe that goes under the interstate and comes out on the other side into Lake Conway and a wildlife habitat.  

Estimates are now saying that at least 10,000 barrels of heavy Canadian crude oil were lost in the incident. On Saturday, March 30th crews arrived from out of state to begin the clean-up. It was then that we learned that the pipe had leaked from 2 p.m. Friday until Saturday morning at approximately 3 a.m. oil spill 367The efforts were led by the county and state agencies at first and they had a lot of trouble getting the blockade to hold to keep the oil contained. Residents were evacuated but not everyone chose to leave. A few residents decided to stay and still reside inside the “hot zone.” Local teams have been working around the clock at the various places throughout this junction in town that this oil has popped out at.  But once you have walked the streets and surveyed the area in its entirety you can’t help but ponder, “how will they ever get it all cleaned up?” oil spill 379
Sunday, March 31st new wildlife effects were discovered surrounding the Lake. Ducks were found covered in oil. Some made it through but many did not and the window to helping the one’s that can be saved is closing rapidly. The total amount of wildlife that has been affected is still unknown and numbers continue to rise. More alarming than the loss of wildlife is that local residents have already begun to notice the effects. The first resident we approached on Saturday was one of the effected residents who chose to evacuate but only after her son began having wheezing, diarrhea and nausea from the fumes. Many residents outside of the hot zone in the surrounding neighborhoods that run next to where the spill occurred are experiencing symptoms. They describe the odor as being so strong that you can “cut it with a knife” and following the spill on Friday they began having a metallic like taste on their tongue and severe headaches followed by nausea. All of their questions have been left unanswered and the only answer they have received is that the air is safe.  Monday and Tuesday followed with an increased influx of companies and out-of-state license plates. oil spill 339

Today, our Attorney General Dustin McDaniel toured the area and described the neighborhood where the spill originated as a scene out of the walking dead. I would say I think it is clear to everyone that has walked the streets and the various locations surrounding the lake that this is an event that not only will take months to clean up but will also have an impact on the town of Mayflower and the residents that will ripple outwards 
into the surrounding areas that will last much longer than anyone is currently addressing.  However, the after-school sports practice involving 8 to 10 children practicing outdoors directly across the railroad tracks from where the spill occurred clearly emphasizes that appropriate measures to limit exposure to area residents are not yet being enforced to the fullest as to limit panic and further public outcry demanding answers and action.

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Tar Sands earth mover

There’s nothing worse than having to hear the whining and gnashing of teeth, especially when the oil industry feels like THEY got a raw deal.  BOO HOO!  Well, then of course the whining is worse when it was Big Oil that started the whole hissy fit and continues to throw gasoline on the fire!

Latest case in point:  The oil industry’s claim that Avatar got the extractive mining of tar sands in Alberta all wrong. In case you haven’t heard about the real world example that James Cameron drew upon for his fable about the raping and plundering of a planet and people for a precious substance buried in the ground, please check out the National Geographic feature or dirtyoilsands.org.

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The Appeals Court Judge at the Chevron Tarsands expansion hearing had a burning question for the oil giant’s ideologue conservative attorney.  Did the $62 million ‘community benefits’ package that Chevron offered the City of Richmond influence its approval and fast tracking of the $800 million expansion of the aging refinery?

Justice Patricia Sepulveda questioned Chevron’s attorney Van Buskirk about whether the Benefits Agreement gave the city “bias to approve the project.” Van Buskirk said, “It wasn’t a quid pro quo, if that’s what you’re suggesting.” But his lack of transparency caused the Justice to hammer away at the point until he ultimately conceded that it was fair suggest to that the gift had played a role in the approval.

Why is the potential for bias so important in what has become a technical scientific wrangling over exactly what kind of crude oil Chevron plans to refine at the facility?  Because Chevron’s attorneys, when questioned on the topic, told the judges to rely on the decisions made by the City of Richmond — which the attorney conceded may have been influenced by the money.

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Caught in the Devil’s Bargain, Chevron stabs workers in the back.

Have you seen the latest story coming out about Chevron and their troubles in Richmond, CA?  Seems since they didn’t get their way in ramming through a giant expansion of their refinery, the Oil Giant is threatening to close up shop, dismantle the 3,000 acre facility and sell the parts at the world’s largest garage sale in China.  Huh?  Get rid of your largest refinery in the most profitable market in the Pacific?  What’s really going on?

Chevron logo and refinery

A strange thing happened when Chevron made their latest move to expand their huge refinery operations in Richmond California, a town mostly known for crime, drugs, failing schools and pollution.  When Chevron’s mega-million dollar expansion won approval from the City and the local Air agency, the project was immediately appealed in Court based on some serious and upfront legal issues. That’s not the strange part. That’s what refineries expect.

The strange part is that, knowing full well that the Court would mandate that work on the project halted until the approval documents were fixed, Chevron played an unbelievably cruel trick on the families of more than a thousand construction workers.  Chevron hired these workers knowing that if the court rejected the questionable environmental estimates (which almost anyone could predict), the workers would have to be laid off, possibly for more than a year.

Why would a local employer and alleged good corporate citizen hire a bunch of people when they knew they would let them go soon afterwards?  Simple.  Chevron wanted to silence their critics by setting up the false choice of jobs versus the environment and in fact bury them for good.  In recent years the local City Council, the Mayor and local watchdog groups have grown weary of Chevron’s threats and bullying tactics to skirt taxes and regulations and claim of being a good neighbor.

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