by Max Brantley
Then, darn! An ExxonMobil pipeline blew out in Arkansas, soaking a Mayflower neighborhood with tar sands and polluting a creek and lake, all not many miles upstream from the water supply for about 20 percent of the population of Arkansas.
So tone deaf was Griffin — unsurprising given his historical financial support from oil companies — that his first wade into the muck of Mayflower was as a pipeline apologist. The Keystone XL pipeline will be safe, oil companies learn from their mistakes, pipelines are not environmental problems, yadda yadda.
But then a funny thing happened. A fan club didn't instantly form up for ExxonMobil, as it has for, say, the Fayetteville shale exploration companies. So Griffin has pivoted. He's all concerned now. He's meeting with residents. He's filed a largely meaningless bill to give the handful of people to whom ExxonMobil eventually deigns, maybe, to pay any money, a little tax exemption on the payment. He is, I suspect, the one leaking selected info to the Democrat-Gazette on inspection reports on the pipeline, information that Exxon continues to refuse to share with the public at large. He needs some friends in the press, that's for sure. And, of course, he hasn't stopped pushing for more pipelines moving more dangerous and environmentally unfriendly tar sands across America to refineries that will ship finished goods to China. That the Koch boys own tar sands property in Canada as well as refineries is just a delightful coincidence.
And just to be sure the reaction to future pipeline disasters is appropriate — TIM GRIFFIN AND OTHER HOUSE REPUBLICANS PROPOSE TO SLASH THE BUDGET OF THE FEDERAL ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY. Who needs the EPA? Or the ADEQ? Or any other regulatory agency? If you can't trust ExxonMobil and Tim Griffin, who can you trust?
Here's the news on the proposal to cut the EPA budget by ONE THIRD. (Yahoo News used Tim Griffin's picture for illustration. He's on Ways and Means, after all.) He and the other House Repubs also want to cut arts spending in half. Who needs art? What we need is oil. And lots of it. If some of it spills, hey. You gotta crack eggs to make an omelette.
UPDATE: The Democratic Party uses the occasion to note Griffin's votes detrimental to pipeline safety:
Congressman Griffin repeatedly opposed safety measures designed to prevent disasters like the catastrophic Mayflower Oil Spill. In fact, Congressman Griffin voted to keep dramatic cuts to pipeline and hazardous material safety programs.
Congressman Griffin also opposed requiring oil companies like Exxon to have disaster plans for cleanup and containment in case of an event like the Mayflower spill. Now, months after the spill, “Exxon is still calling the shots, many Mayflower homeowners are still unable to return home and Mayflower residents “are continuing to be brushed to the side.”
“Congressman Griffin could have protected families in Mayflower from these kinds of catastrophic oil spills — but instead, Congressman Griffin repeatedly voted against safety measures designed to prevent these types of disasters,” said Candace Martin of the Democratic Party of Arkansas. “Unfortunately, Congressman Griffin has repeatedly put the dysfunctional politics of Washington over protecting Arkansas families. Now the residents of Mayflower are the ones paying the price because Congressman Griffin has once again done too little, too late.”
Congressman Griffin Repeatedly Voted to Keep Cuts to Pipeline Safety. In 2013, Griffin voted to keep federal sequester cuts impacting pipeline safety. The Office of Management and Budget reported that in FY 2013, the federal sequester would make the cuts to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, including: $5 million from pipeline safety, $1 million from emergency preparedness grants, $1 million from Trust Fund Share of Pipeline Safety, and $2 million from hazardous materials safety. For FY 2014, the federal sequester would cut $2 million from PHMSA’s emergency preparedness grants. [H Con Res 25, Vote #88, 3/21/13; HR 115, Vote #82, 3/19/13; OMB FY 2014 Report, 5/20/13; OMB FY 2013 Report, 3/01/13]
Congressman Griffin Voted Against Requiring Companies Have a Disaster Plan for Oil Spills. In 2011, Griffin voted against an amendment that required oil and gas companies to have contingency plans for worst-case scenarios, including plans for oil containment and cleanup, when applying for 5-year oil and gas off-shore permits. [The Hill,5/11/11; Congressional Record, 5/11/11; HR 1231, Vote #315, 5/11/11]
Congressman Griffin Voted Against Requiring Pipeline Builders Pay Their Fair Share for Oil Spills. In May 2013, Griffin voted against requiring TransCanada, the developer of the Keystone XL pipeline to contribute a portion of their revenue per barrel into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. Companies that transport oil are required to pay 8-cents per barrel into the trust fund, used by the federal government to respond to oil spills. Oil sands crude is currently exempt from making contributions to the Liability Trust Fund. [HR 3, Vote #178, 5/22/13]
Pipeline that Burst in Mayflower Had a History of Leaks. “Federal agency accident records show that the ExxonMobil pipeline that spilled thousands of gallons of oil near Little Rock in March has had at least 13 minor leaks since 2010. The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration documents, obtained by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette through a Freedom of Information Act request, indicate that corrosion caused six of those leaks […] Reports from the pipeline agency also show that ExxonMobil was fined $26,200 in 2010 for not inspecting a section of the pipeline beneath the Mississippi River between Missouri and Illinois within the five-year time frame required by federal regulations.” [Associated Press, 6/29/13]