by Max Brantley
He darn near ran for re-election on pipelines, using every opportunity to depict himself in a yard full of pipeline materials and making the review process on the Keystone XL pipeline very nearly the sole answer to U.S. economic vitality.
Now that the ExxonMobil pipeline has spewed tar sands on Mayflower and Arkansas has gotten an up-close look at inadequate environmental guards on that line and the company's failure to answer pertinent questions or provide damaged property owners with quick and clear paths to restoration of what they've lost, he's left floundering with "concern." But not from Tim Griffin do you hear the tough and pertinent questions that, for example, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has raised.
In the Griffin world, benefit of the doubt goes to oil companies. They'll do right. Trust them. But really. How can Tim Griffin advocate strenuously for building the Keystone XL pipeline through a sensitive aquifer in Nebraska while he says ExxonMobil should move its ruptured Pegasus pipeline out of the watershed of Little Rock's water supply, Lake Maumelle? What is Nebraska to Tim Griffin? Chopped liver.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning Inside Climate Newstakes note under a story headlined "Rep. Griffin Wants Exxon Pipeline Relocated, but Keystone Is a 'No-Brainer'"
"What's good for Arkansas is good for Nebraska," anti-Keystone activist Jane Kleeb said in an email. "Rep. Griffin showed courage and common sense asking Exxon to move the tar sands pipeline away from the water. The same request should apply to all pipelines, especially Keystone XL that lies [in] the Ogallala aquifer and crosses over 200 bodies of water and family wells."
Author and environmental activist Bill McKibben had a more succinct response to Griffin's position: "Always nice when people are willing to let others run risks they'd prefer to spurn."
...Ken Winston, a policy advocate with Nebraska's Sierra Club, said the congressman's stance on Keystone—which would carry almost 10 times as much oil as the Pegasus line—simply isn't consistent with his pledge to protect Arkansas' water.
"If we're going to keep one pipeline away from a watershed or aquifer, it makes sense to keep one that's 10 times as big out of a larger and potentially more valuable aquifer," Winston said.
Griffin's office did not return requests for comment about the congressman's contradictory positions on the Keystone and Pegasus pipelines.
Speaking of Inside Climate News: Here's another Arkansas angle. It delves deeply into the blithe assurances, from both some state officials and Exxon, that carcinogens in the air are below levels that pose a health threat. Attorney General McDaniel has raised questions similar to the following:
Despite these reassurances, residents have suffered headaches, nausea and vomiting—classic symptoms of short-term exposure to the chemicals found in crude oil.
"Figuring out how to protect people after a disaster like this is very hard," said Aaron Bernstein, a public health expert and associate director of Harvard's Center for Health and the Global Environment. "People living near the spill early on could definitely have gotten sick" from the concentrations present in the air.
Much of the attention is focused on airborne levels of benzene, a known carcinogen that is toxic at very low doses. But crude oil also contains hundreds of other chemicals, and for some of these compounds, little is known about their effects on human health.
Given the gaps in scientific research, public health experts say it's hard to know what levels of exposure are safe.