I wrote yesterday about the regrettable spill by ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. in Mayflower, Arkansas. We have apologized to the people of Mayflower and all of Arkansas and will be there until the cleanup is complete.
What I thought I’d talk about today are the top five inaccuracies being spread by anti-fossil fuel activists seeking to capitalize on this unfortunate event.
Here are some of the whoppers they’re pushing out on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.
1. ExxonMobil is using a loophole in the law to avoid paying for the cleanup
This bizarre charge is that ExxonMobil is relying on a law that exempts diluted bitumen from taxes that support the Oil Liability Trust Fund and thereby will avoid paying for the cleanup.
This is actually three lies in one.
Let me start by saying ExxonMobil will pay for the cleanup. Period. Full-stop.
The second inaccuracy here is that oil spilled in Mayflower is diluted bitumen from the Canadian oil sands. The crude that spilled is Wabasca heavy oil and it’s from Alberta near the area where there is oil sands production. It’s produced by conventional production methods – in other words by drilling a well into the ground through which the oil flows – and diluted by a light oil to help it flow through the pipeline.
There are two forms of oil sands production. The first involves mining and using a combination of heat, water and chemicals to remove the oil from the sand. The other is in-situ – which means in place – production and involves injecting steam underground to help heat the oil to flow it to the surface.
So, as a result of the fact that the crude that spilled in Mayflower is conventionally produced heavy oil, it is considered taxable under the Oil Liability Trust Fund.
And again, we’re not using the Oil Liability Trust Fund to pay for the cleanup. ExxonMobil is paying for the cleanup.
So to sum up – We’re paying for the cleanup. The oil is conventionally produced heavy crude. And it’s considered taxable.
2. ExxonMobil is barring access to the site
Depending on the website you visit, we’ve been accused of imposing martial law, practicing fascism and barring media from the spill site.
This photo is of Karen Tyrone, vice president of operations for ExxonMobil Pipeline Company, talking to media near the spill site earlier this week.
In fact, we’ve been assisting media to gain access to the site throughout the week by working with local authorities.
Police in Mayflower are honoring residents’ wishes to manage access to the site for their privacy and to ensure safety of the cleanup workers.
One activist who masquerades as a reporter even accused us of threatening to have her arrested. Also not true. The reporter was in an unauthorized area on private property and was asked politely to leave.
A quick Google search will turn up dozens of reports by local and national media from the site, proving these claims are really just attempts to demonize the company.
3. We’ve instituted a no-fly zone to prevent aerial photography
First cousin to the barring-media lie is the myth that we’ve instituted a no-fly zone to keep people from photographing the spill site from above.
Also just not true.
We asked the Federal Aviation Administration to take their standard safety precaution to ensure aircraft safety during an emergency response situation.
They’ve temporarily restricted flights lower than 1,000 feet to make sure that helicopters involved in the response don’t come into collision with other aircraft in the area. Media can ask to enter the temporary flight restriction area at any time. There’s no problem for anyone to take aerial photos of the area, as your Google search will attest.
4. Crude oil from the Canadian oil sands is inherently more corrosive than regular oil
This claim is being used in hopes of derailing the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, but it’s not true. The industry has shipped diluted bitumen, or dilbit, by pipeline safely for more than 40 years. There haven’t been any cases of pipeline releases of dilbit caused by internal corrosion in all that time.
Oil sands crude has the same chemical properties as other heavy crude oils from California, Mexico and Venezuela that have been successfully transported by pipeline in the U.S. for the last 40 years.
In fact, as I noted last November, researchers at the Canadian government’s leading national research university have concluded that the dilbit samples they tested were actually less corrosive than several of the other heavy oils they studied.
5. We shouldn’t use pipelines because they are inherently unsafe
The truth is that pipelines are the safest way to transport oil and gas, which are vital to our economy. According to the Association of Oil Pipe Lines, accidents are 1,000 times more likely to occur with a large truck, 13 times more likely to occur by barge, and five times more likely to occur by rail than they are on a pipeline. Saying we shouldn’t use pipelines is like saying the economy shouldn’t use oil and natural gas, which currently accounts for more than 60 percent of U.S. energy demand. It’s not a serious argument.
The incident in Arkansas, however, is serious.
And that’s why the public discussion about what is going on with the Mayflower spill should be informed by facts and not myths, inaccuracies and outright falsehoods.
For our part, ExxonMobil is committed to providing regular updates and information about ongoing cleanup efforts through the Unified Command, which is responding to the spill.
The Unified Command includes federal, state and local county authorities and attests to the accuracy of updates from its Joint Information Center, which you can find on our website.