By Representative Tim Griffin
When a Mayflower neighborhood was overrun by oil leaking from an underground pipeline, community leaders, government officials and ExxonMobil employees responded quickly. Thanks to everyone's teamwork, damage from the spill has so far been contained.
Unfortunately, the cleanup will take time, and even after it's complete the families displaced from their homes will face significant challenges. When I visited the site on Good Friday and again a few days later, it was clear that every resource would be needed to make this right. Residents have had their lives turned upside down and are understandably worried about the value of their homes, and I will continue working to ensure these concerns and any others are addressed truthfully and fairly.
Exxon will be held accountable. A thorough investigation will determine why this leak happened, and while Exxon employees apologized for this accident, clearly that can't turn back the clock. They assure me they will be here until their job is done, and I will hold them to it. My office is reaching out to every family to ensure their immediate needs are properly met.
Arkansas can be proud of how our community has pulled together. Mayor Randy Holland and Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson have done an outstanding job, as have our firefighters, police, hazardous materials teams and a host of local, state and federal employees. This paper's detailed reporting has been an invaluable resource.
Ultimately, this spill is a reminder that when it comes to producing and consuming affordable energy, we're all in this together. Sadly, some activists disagree, and their first response was to launch political attacks. Opponents of affordable energy see the accident in Mayflower as an opportunity to advance their agenda. They never let a good crisis go to waste because their arguments aren't new: they want to limit our access to the resources that heat and cool our homes, power our cars and keep our refrigerators running. They've turned up the attacks, but they haven't turned off their iPhones, permanently parked their cars or stopped using the thousands of plastic household items that are all made from oil.
I'm focused on making things right for the people of Mayflower, so I'll leave playing politics to them. I support building infrastructure and greater access to affordable energy. Developing and transporting energy from wind, solar, hydro, nuclear, coal, oil and gas resources all come with risks, which Americans work hard to minimize.
After all, harnessing these resources creates jobs, improves the quality of our lives, and propels our economy forward. These are things to be proud of, not resent.
Arkansas is a leader in the modern natural gas revolution -- why would anyone want to drag our state backwards? The Obama Administration's own U.S. Geological Survey study, with researchers from Duke University in cooperation with the University of Arkansas, found "no indication of systemic, regional effects" on groundwater from gas production in the Fayetteville Shale play.
American pipelines are indisputably the safest way to move oil. Every year, they transport more than 11 billion barrels, and last year, less than five ten-thousandths of one percent of it was lost to spills. In 2011, I voted for the Pipeline Safety Act, which President Obama signed into law (PL 112-090). It strengthened regulations and increased penalties on operators who break the rules. The existing Keystone pipeline is monitored via 16,000 pressure sensors refreshed every five seconds. The new Keystone XL project will include 57 additional safety measures, and the Obama Administration declared it would "have a degree of safety over any other." Last month, 17 Democrats and every Republican in the U.S. Senate voted in favor of building it. Polls show a large majority of Americans support it too. They recognize it's part of a smart, open, all-of-the-above energy security strategy, and would help millions of middle class families. We are all better off when energy is available and affordable.
Saying no to new energy infrastructure isn't a plan for the future. It simply means more oil is moved in riskier ways. As The New York Times described, the Obama Administration's latest environmental report on the Keystone XL pipeline "says that alternate means of transporting the oil -- rail, truck, barge -- also have significant environmental and economic impacts, including higher cost, noise, traffic, air pollution and the possibility of spills." The report concluded Keystone XL would have "no significant impacts" on resources along the proposed route.
Protecting the environment for my children and the next generation of Arkansans is important to me. Reducing risks and fueling our lives in a responsible way is the right thing to do. When accidents occur, communities come together, help each other pick up the pieces and turn problems into progress. Mayflower residents exemplify this spirit of recovery, and I'm committed to ensuring their lives are fully restored.