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Current Events & Hot Topics Current Events & Hot Topics

Reporters Threatened With Arrest at Ark. Oil Spill Site

Posted by on Apr. 8, 2013 at 11:12 AM
  • 10 Replies

By Susan White, InsideClimate News

InsideClimate News reporter Lisa Song was threatened with arrest on Wednesday after she entered the command center for the cleanup operation in Mayflower, Ark., where a major oil pipeline spill occurred on Friday.

Song went to the command center in hopes of reaching representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation. She had been told they were working out of the command center, but had been unable to get their names or contact information despite multiple requests to the agencies.

Thousands of barrels of oil from Alberta's tar sands region—similar to the diluted bitumen that would flow through the controversial Keystone XL project—spilled into a residential neighborhood from a pipeline owned by ExxonMobil, forcing the evacuation of 22 homes. Those families are now being housed in hotels at Exxon's expense. 

Song had tried to enter the command compound on Tuesday, but was turned away by a security guard. On Wednesday, however, a different guard was on duty and he waved her through the gate. Inside, a second person directed her to the warehouse that houses the command center.

Inside the building, Song went to a table with a sign that said "public affairs," where she was given the name and contact information for Austin Vela, the EPA spokesman at the site. Before she could get the name of a DOT representative, however, Exxon spokeswoman Kim Jordan spotted Song and told her to leave. A second person arrived and said, "You've been asked by security to leave. If you don't you'll be arrested for criminal trespass."

Song left the compound.


InsideClimate News lodged complaints with the EPA and with officials at the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the division of the DOT that regulates interstate pipelines.

A PHMSA spokeswoman responded and said the agency has two investigators in Mayflower and no public information officer, and is not responsible for site access.

The EPA, which is the designated on-scene coordinator for the investigation in Mayflower, did not respond to questions about whether Song should have been evicted from the command center.

Timothy Smith, professor emeritus of journalism at Kent State University and founder of the Media Law Center for Ethics and Access, said that if the command center was on Exxon property and Song had refused to leave, the company could, indeed, have asked local law enforcement officials to arrest her.

But Smith said he couldn't understand why the "DOT and EPA should be hunkered down behind walls thrown up by a private company."

"This type of operating procedure is unusual. I can't figure out why it would be beneficial to either Exxon or DOT to control information about this event," Smith said.

"While the Arkansas spill is certainly embarrassing given the controversy about the Canadian pipeline, by denying access, they are making it worse."

Song reported on Tuesday that Exxon is controlling the flow of information about the spill. The phone number of the command center goes to an ExxonMobil answering service in Texas, and for almost a week the official daily updates released by the command center contained only three logos: ExxonMobil, the city of Mayflower and Faulkner County, Ark.

Vela, the EPA spokesman, said the agency's logo was omitted by accident. It appeared on Thursday's update.

The area where the spill occurred is also off limits to the media. On Tuesday afternoon, a sheriff's deputy told Song and two college journalism students to leave when they tried to take pictures at a spot near the incident command site, where some of the oil was being removed. On Wednesday, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that the Federal Aviation Administration has set up a temporary no-fly zone over the spill area, and that "only relief aircraft under direction of Tom Suhrhoff" are allowed in the zone. A LinkedIn profile says Suhrhoff is an aviation advisor at ExxonMobil.

About 600 people at the site are working for Exxon and various contractors. The EPA has five employees on site.

The ExxonMobil pipeline that ruptured was carrying Wabasca Heavy crude, a type of bitumen mined in Canada's oil sands region. Because bitumen is too thick to flow through pipelines, it is thinned with natural gas liquids and turned into dilbit, or diluted bitumen.

In 2010, Canadian dilbit spilled into Michigan's Kalamazoo River from a ruptured pipeline, and oil is still being found in sections of the riverbed today, almost three years later.  If the Keystone XL pipeline is approved, it will carry dilbit from Alberta, Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast. As it passes through Nebraska, the Keystone would cross one of the nation's largest and most important water sources, the Ogallala aquifer.

Song has been covering the Keystone project, the Michigan spill and pipeline safety issues since 2011. After she left the command center on Wednesday, the ExxonMobil spokeswoman sent her an email with the name and contact information for Bill Lowry, a DOT representative. And Vela, the EPA spokesman, called and said he would try to arrange a tour of the site.

On Thursday afternoon, Vela met Song and gave her a tour of the command center parking lot. He also allowed her to take photos at the edge of a nearby cleanup site. They were accompanied by an ExxonMobil spokesman.

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If they enforced bank regulations like they do park rules, we wouldn't be in this mess

by on Apr. 8, 2013 at 11:12 AM
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Replies (1-10):
brookiecookie87
by Platinum Member on Apr. 8, 2013 at 11:14 AM
1 mom liked this

Short on time? Here is the beef of the story:


Quote:

 

Michael Hibblen, who reports for the radio station KUAR, went to the spill site on Wednesday with state Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. McDaniel was in the area to inspect the site and hold a news conference, and Hibblen and a small group of reporters were following him to report on the visit. Upon arrival, representatives from the county sheriff's office, which is running security at the site, directed the reporters to a boundary point 10 feet away that they should not pass. The reporters agreed to comply. But the tone shifted abruptly, Hibblen told Mother Jones on Friday:

It was less than 90 seconds before suddenly the sheriff's deputies started yelling that all the media people had to leave, that ExxonMobil had decided they don't want you here, you have to leave. They even referred to it as "Exxon Media"…Some reporters were like, "Who made this decision? Who can we talk to?" The sheriff's deputies started saying, "You have to leave. You have 10 seconds to leave or you will be arrested."

Hibblen says he didn't really have time to deal with getting arrested, since he needed to file his report on the visit for both the local affiliate and national NPR. (You can hear his piece on the AG's visit here.) KUAR has also reported on Exxon blocking reporters' access to the spill site.



brookiecookie87
by Platinum Member on Apr. 8, 2013 at 11:32 AM

Link 1: Here we have an independant group of activist that venture into the lake. The guy dips his hand in it and it comes out lookling like this:



There is videos in that link as well.

Aerial Footage:



This video wasn't taken by mainstream media. And shortly after the video was taken they restricted flight over the area. This video shows oil in the lake. This is opposite of the claim they made that the oil hasn't touched the lake.

If you take a gander at Fox news you will notice they say the oil did not touch the lake. There more recent articles on the topic just don't mention it at all.

And since they are threatening to arrest any reporters who get closer. It might stay that way :/

furbabymum
by Gold Member on Apr. 8, 2013 at 11:40 AM

 Well it is local sheriff. They tend to be a bit...umm....excited about any action they get.

Raintree
by Ruby Member on Apr. 8, 2013 at 11:44 AM
1 mom liked this


Quoting furbabymum:

 Well it is local sheriff. They tend to be a bit...umm....excited about any action they get.

Haha! Yes, this is true. It's Barney Fife syndrome.


furbabymum
by Gold Member on Apr. 8, 2013 at 11:48 AM

 For all we know some random Exxon employee made a comment about hating the media and these guys went nuts with the opportunity to flex their power muscles. lol I know I live in a rural state and boy howdy do they get excited about everything.

Quoting Raintree:


Quoting furbabymum:

 Well it is local sheriff. They tend to be a bit...umm....excited about any action they get.

Haha! Yes, this is true. It's Barney Fife syndrome.


 

Raintree
by Ruby Member on Apr. 8, 2013 at 11:57 AM
1 mom liked this

The problem is, this very thing has been an issue all along. It was an issue during the gulf spill 'clean up', it has been an issue with the keystone construction, it's like this with the arkansas spill and now this one. They're running the show.

Quoting furbabymum:

 For all we know some random Exxon employee made a comment about hating the media and these guys went nuts with the opportunity to flex their power muscles. lol I know I live in a rural state and boy howdy do they get excited about everything.

Quoting Raintree:


Quoting furbabymum:

 Well it is local sheriff. They tend to be a bit...umm....excited about any action they get.

Haha! Yes, this is true. It's Barney Fife syndrome.


 


furbabymum
by Gold Member on Apr. 8, 2013 at 12:01 PM
1 mom liked this

 Well big oil hasn't ever been known for giving a s**t about the environment and people, just $$$. So I can't say I'm shocked.

Quoting Raintree:

The problem is, this very thing has been an issue all along. It was an issue during the gulf spill 'clean up', it has been an issue with the keystone construction, it's like this with the arkansas spill and now this one. They're running the show.

Quoting furbabymum:

 For all we know some random Exxon employee made a comment about hating the media and these guys went nuts with the opportunity to flex their power muscles. lol I know I live in a rural state and boy howdy do they get excited about everything.

Quoting Raintree:


Quoting furbabymum:

 Well it is local sheriff. They tend to be a bit...umm....excited about any action they get.

Haha! Yes, this is true. It's Barney Fife syndrome.


 


 

Raintree
by Ruby Member on Apr. 8, 2013 at 12:02 PM

Yep.

Quoting furbabymum:

 Well big oil hasn't ever been known for giving a s**t about the environment and people, just $$$. So I can't say I'm shocked.

Quoting Raintree:

The problem is, this very thing has been an issue all along. It was an issue during the gulf spill 'clean up', it has been an issue with the keystone construction, it's like this with the arkansas spill and now this one. They're running the show.

Quoting furbabymum:

 For all we know some random Exxon employee made a comment about hating the media and these guys went nuts with the opportunity to flex their power muscles. lol I know I live in a rural state and boy howdy do they get excited about everything.

Quoting Raintree:


Quoting furbabymum:

 Well it is local sheriff. They tend to be a bit...umm....excited about any action they get.

Haha! Yes, this is true. It's Barney Fife syndrome.


 


 


survivorinohio
by René on Apr. 8, 2013 at 12:32 PM

:(


TranquilMind
by Platinum Member on Apr. 8, 2013 at 5:55 PM

This is disturbing.  It's all about the money.  Exxon is covering its butt in order to attempt to avoid fines and clean up costs.

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