Mayflower Oil Spill: ExxonMobil Should Be Held Accountable, But They Won't
If ever proof was needed that America is cursed with corporatocracy, we need only look at Mayflower, Arkansas. On March 29, 2013, an ExxonMobil pipeline carrying tar sands oil through the town ruptured, spilling an estimated 84,000 gallons of crude in 45 minutes. In the aftermath of the spill, Exxon has practically placed the town under lock-down; They persuaded the FAA to impose a No Fly Zone, told nervous residents nothing, placed heavy restrictions on all media coverage and finally threatened to arrest a reporter for criminal trespassing when said reporter entered their command headquarters looking for information. It doesn't take a saint to recognize there is something wrong with this situation, but I'll add a little more fuel to the fire: On April 3, not even a week after the tar sands spill, ExxonMobil spilled an unknown amount of chemicals at a Louisiana refinery before being awarded with a medal by the National Safety Council. Let's pause for a minute just to let that sink in, to simmer even. If you're not insulted on some level, something is wrong with you.
Let's start with Mayflower. Before this incident, the only contact the townsfolk had with ExxonMobil was the lone gas station. Now the town is looking like the start of the second Resident Evil movie. At Exxon's request, a No Fly Zone has been established over the site of the spill (controlled by Exxon's Aviation Adviser Tom Suhrhoff), meaning that getting aerial photos and footage of the extent of the environmental damage is impossible. They've also taken over wildlife rescue, and reports have it that ExxonMobil teams have been kicking independent wildlife rescue teams off of private property.
These actions alone are shifty enough, but Exxon has taken things one step further and taken aim at any journalist with half a mind to cover this environmental disaster. Local media efforts to cover the incident have been blocked and hampered by the county sheriff, which seems to be taking its orders from the oil giant. Reporters who accompanied Arkansas' attorney general to the site were asked to leave by Exxon representatives. Local reporters said that barely two minutes had passed before the media entourage was told to leave or face arrest. On top of this, a reporter named Lisa Song was threatened with arrest after visiting ExxonMobil with the intention of finding a representative of the EPA. She had been told the EPA officials were operating out of the Exxon Command Center (which is worrying enough) but was unable to get their names or contact information. Once inside she went to a public affairs representative who gave her the contact information for the EPA representative, but was then told to leave the compound by Exxon spokespeople or face a criminal trespassing charge.
Moving onto Louisiana, the
spill there might have gone unnoticed but for the fact that it smelled so bad that it beat out the worst scents New Orleans had to offer. The amount and type of chemical is still unknown, but it has been said that the chemicals are hydrogen sulfide and benzene, the latter of which causes cancer. To make things worse, this isn't the first spill to happen at the Chalmette refinery; in January the refinery spilled 360 barrels of crude. Residents spent a day inhaling the chemicals as reports of breathing difficulties and other ailments streamed in, with the Coast Guard telling people that there was nothing to worry about.
And as all this has been going on, ExxonMobil was honored with an award for its leadership and “comprehensive commitment to safety excellence”.
"The Council is honored to recognize ExxonMobil with the Green Cross for Safety medal. This organization is a wonderful example of the role corporations can play in preventing injuries and saving lives," is what NSC president Janet Froetscher commemorated the corporation's dubious safety record with. Reports have said that the decision for this award was made back in October 2012, but all the same, one would think that recent events should be taken into account.
And all the while Exxon, is claiming that tar-sands oil isn't oil under a 1980 law so they can avoid paying into the Federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.
To call all of this bullshit is a benediction. In any country with even a half-drunken sense of justice, this kind of situation wouldn't be allowed to happen. To let the corporation that caused an environmental disaster run wild and mad with purchased authority and threaten anyone who wants to tell even part of the truth with jail is something we expect to hear from Russia or China or some other ultra-authoritarian pit of a country. More and more, though, we learn that for all the government's gibberish about being the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, justice is another thing America has a deficit of.
ExxonMobil should be made to bleed for their shenanigans, but it's likely they'll get away with only a slap on the wrist, just like BP did.