Either Exxon cut corners, or we've got a national pipeline problem | Arkansas Blog

Either Exxon cut corners, or we've got a national pipeline problem


Our partners at InsideClimate News surveyed pipeline industry experts in an important new article that boils down the importance of getting to the bottom of what caused the Mayflower oil spill.  

"With proper inspection and maintenance, these catastrophic events can be prevented," said Mohammad Najafi, a pipeline construction expert and engineering professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. "As pipelines exceed their design lives, they need more maintenance and a proper asset management strategy to prevent or minimize these ruptures."

That leaves the public and regulators with two critical questions: Did Exxon manage and test its broken Pegasus pipeline according to established guidelines? And, if it did, is the Arkansas accident a warning that other pipelines might be at risk?

If so, the repercussions would be nationwide, since many of the nation's liquid fuel and natural gas pipelines are of similar vintage and were built using the same inferior construction techniques. The gas line that ruptured in San Bruno, Calif. in September 2010, killing eight people and destroying 38 homes, included segments made with the same process as the Pegasus pipe. Investigators foundthat the pipeline's owner, Pacific Gas & Electric, had neglected to properly inspect and repair the line and that regulators issued testing exemptions and placed "blind trust" in the company's assurances.

Recent maintenance and testing records for the Pegasus, as well as the metal analysis report that blamed the accident primarily on a 65-year-old manufacturing defect, would offer important insight into why the pipeline failed. Those documents, however, are being withheld from the public...

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel got the documents in response to a subpoena, and Rep. Tim Griffin said his office had received the reports as well. Both have said they think the reports should be made public. Exxon has argued that it's inspection reports are proprietary, but doesn't object to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration releasing a metallurgy report of the pipeline done after the rupture.   

ICYMI: We reached our funding goal for our reporting project with InsideClimate News. Thanks to everyone who contributed! One of the project's reporters, Sam Eifling, should be at Times HQ tomorrow. 

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