CNN "CNN Newsroom" - Transcript - ExxonMobil Oil Spill

Interview

By:  Dustin McDaniel
Date: April 3, 2013
Location: Unknown

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COSTELLO: Nineteen minute past the hour. Welcome back.

Arkansas now investigating ExxonMobil for a nasty oil leak in the town of Mayflower. Crews are still cleaning up 12,000 barrels of crude oil that poured into streets and soaked into lawns. The neighborhood has now overcome with the stench of crude oil. People were forced to evacuate, two dozen of them.

The spill started Friday. It was caused by a two to three inch gash in ExxonMobil's 60-year-old underground pipeline that transports Canadian oil to Texas.

With us now from Little Rock is Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel.

Welcome.

DUSTIN MCDANIEL, ARKANSAS ATTORNEY GENERAL: Good morning. Thank you.

COSTELLO: Good morning. What action is your office taking, and why?

MCDANIEL: Well, the attorney general's office is responsible for representing the people of the state. And so, most importantly to me, I want to know what happened. I want to know what we're doing to clean it up. And what we're going to do going forward to ensure that the natural resources of Arkansas that have been damaged -- we're compensated for that.

So, the first step, of course, is to place the company on notice that we want them to retain their records, documents, e-mails, things that are going to be important as we gather evidence going forward, and then today I'm going to go personally to the site and get a feel for what's happening on the ground.

COSTELLO: It doesn't sound like you trust ExxonMobil overly?

MCDANIEL: To their credit, they have been cooperative so far. However, I think that it's my responsibility in the adversarial system that we have to be very aggressive and ensure the people of Arkansas are being represented thoroughly. So, it's not is much about trust. It's just about ensuring that the right things are being done step by step to make sure that this environmental incident is addressed properly.

This is not the type of thing that we deal with all the time in Arkansas. So, I've been in touch with my friends, the attorneys general of Louisiana and Mississippi who, unfortunately, have a lot more experience with much larger spills than this and I'm getting an awful lot of good advice about how to proceed.

COSTELLO: Yes, we all remember what BP did. So we're with you.

I'm just wondering, you have crude oil inside some homes. Crude oil seeping into the ground, what -- how could that harm your home? Could it harm a home irreparably? And could it sink into the ground that crude oil, and affect the aquifers underground?

MCDANIEL: Well, I don't want to step too far, but I would think that some homes would be damaged beyond repair. I think a lot of the ground soil is going to have to be removed permanently and replaced. Some homes are probably going to have to be destroyed. Much of this area may have to be completely redone.

And you're right to talk about the ground water. We have a fragile environment in Arkansas. We protect it. We call ourselves the natural state for a reason. And whether it's the Lake Conway which is a source of drinking water and recreation in Faulkner County or the extensive underground aquifers that are critical to Arkansas's economy and environment, we're going to find out exactly how far the spill goes.

COSTELLO: And the last question, the pipeline that runs underneath the state is 60 years old. ExxonMobil, what, earned a near world record profit of $45 billion last year. Wouldn't it be nice if they replaced that pipe?

MCDANIEL: I don't know how long they intended for that pipeline to be in use when it was put in the ground just after World War II, and I don't know exactly when it was last inspected or what the inspection records are. But I can assure you the people of Arkansas are going to ask those questions and we're going to find out.

COSTELLO: Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

MCDANIEL: Thank you. It's good to be with you.

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