by Max Brantley
The spills are in Michigan three years ago and in Mayflower, Ark., in March.
They are featured prominently in the Sunday New York Times because of their relevance to the ongoing national debate on the Keystone XL pipeline. Already, the local rupture has changed markedly the demeanor of oil industry advocate U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, newly recast as a neighborhood defender. The Keystone pipeline, a virtual cornerstone of his 2012 election campaign, is still high on his wish list, but he is much less heard-from on the subject now.
Writes the Times:
It has been three years since an Enbridge Energy pipeline ruptured beneath this small western Michigan town, spewing more than 840,000 gallons of thick oil sands crude into the Kalamazoo River and Talmadge Creek, the largest oil pipeline failure in the country’s history. Last March, an Exxon Mobil pipeline burst in Mayflower, Ark., releasing thousands of gallons of oil and forcing the evacuation of 22 homes.
Both pipeline companies have spent tens of millions of dollars trying to recover the heavy crude, similar to the product Keystone XL would carry. River and floodplain ecosystems have had to be restored, and neighborhoods are still being refurbished. Legal battles are being waged, and residents’ lives have been forever changed.
“All oil spills are pretty ugly and not easy to clean up,” said Stephen K. Hamilton, a professor of aquatic ecology at Michigan State University who is advising the Environmental Protection Agency and the state on the cleanup in Marshall. “But this kind of an oil is even harder to clean up because of its tendency to stick to surfaces and its tendency to become submerged.”
Three years in Michigan and the cleanup is not completed. Tell that to Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, who announces a congressional candidacy Monday. He visited Mayflower and proclaimed:
...they've kind of made this area even better than what it was before. I definitely think there's some unanswered questions, but as far as the clean-up goes it looks like that's been pretty well taken care of
Our cover story this week talks with neighbors who aren't so sanguine.
Unsettled feelings and circumstances in MIchigan long after the fact are the main emphasis of the NY Times story. But Arkansas is visited, too. After recounting the money that ExxonMobil has spent so far, the article continues:
For some, the money cannot replace the lives they once led.
Jimmy Arguello and his wife, Tiffany, lived in Northwoods for six years, in the first home they owned, built by Mr. Arguello, a plumber, and his friends.
The day the pipeline broke, the Arguellos were told by the police to pack for a few days. But for three months, the couple and their two young sons stayed at hotels — six in all — before settling into an apartment in nearby Conway.
Exxon has paid their living expenses, but the impact on the family has been “heartbreaking,” Mr. Arguello said. Worried about raising his children near an oil spill, he has decided to sell his home to Exxon. “It’s hard not to know where your family is going to go and where we’re going to end up,” he said. “I built that house six years ago. And now I’m not going back.”