Arkansas Bitumen Spill: Reporters Given “10 Seconds to Leave”

I had thought the oil spill side of the pipeline opposition overblown, but the Arkansas spill appears quite serious, and the remediation effort is peculiar:

That afternoon, we went to the Faulkner County Library for a meeting of roughly 100 affected residents and concerned community members. We offered ourselves as a resource and source of information, based on our experience fighting the Keystone XL pipeline and working against TransCanada. People aired their grievances and started to form working groups to start addressing various concerns – such as the fact that the Pegasus pipeline still runs through the Lake Maumelle watershed which supplies water to 400,000 people in Little Rock.

Then, we went to the wetland where Exxon has allegedly been dumping the diluted bitumen. That’s right: in order to get the tar sands out of the neighborhood where it spilled and out of sight and into one place for cleanup Exxon power-washed the excess into a wetland area which had already been affected by the spill. We went there to find out. It was just before sunset, and most of the workers had gone home. We had tried to access this area before but always been kept out by workers and police. (coordinates: +34° 57′ 42.65″, -92° 24′ 52.64″, just a couple hundred feet from the Bell Slough State Wildlife Management Area)

It also appears that the oil company is doing whatever it can to limit press coverage of the event:

Reporters covering the oil spill from ExxonMobil’s Pegasus pipeline in Mayflower, Arkansas, are reporting that they’ve been blocked from the site and threatened with arrest.

On Friday morning, Inside Climate News reported that an Exxon spokesperson told reporter Lisa Song that she could be “arrested for criminal trespass” when she went to the command center to try to find representatives from the EPA and the Department of Transportation. On Friday afternoon, I spoke to the news director from the local NPR affiliate who said he, too, had been threatened with arrest while trying to cover the spill.

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 (a reporter for a local NPR radio station) 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.”


  1. There appears to be a broad campaign to prevent the dissemination of inbformation:

    "Exxon Pressures Arkansas TV Stations To Ban Critical Ad Following Mayflower Tar Sands Spill"

    Amidst reports of media intimidation at the site of the Mayflower, Arkansas tar sands oil spill, ExxonMobil has now taken to bullying local Little Rock television stations into canceling the airing of a satirical but cutting advertisement critical of their business practices.

    See a copy of the ad here:

    The crowd-funded ad buy was to be part of an ongoing campaign – – being run by three progressive organizations using satire to target the more than $10 billion per year US taxpayers spend to subsidize dirty fossil fuel companies like Exxon.
    “Exxon is and will always be a bully,” said David Turnbull, Campaigns Director of Oil Change International. “Instead of engaging their critics appropriately, Exxon uses its billions to hire high-priced lawyers to make scary-sounding but unsupported legal claims to suppress criticism. It’s a window into how they have preserved billions in taxpayer handouts for their industry for so many years.”

    This is the second time Exxon has bullied this advertisement off the air. In February, Exxon sent a cease-and-desist letter to Comcast only hours before scheduled airings during State of the Union news coverage.

    The move by Exxon marks the latest in a series of reported strong-arm tactics undertaken by Exxon to censor reporting in the days following the Mayflower tar sands oil spill.

    The groups have responded to the requests from the TV stations for a rebuttal with a letter from their legal representation, outlining the clear history of protected speech that the advertisement rests upon.

    “This ad has been funded by citizens from across the country who know what corporations like Exxon really stand for. Our government is providing tax breaks to companies like Exxon to spill oil in our backyards. It’s time to stand up to Exxon and allow this message to be heard,” said Drew Hudson, Executive Director of Environmental Action.

    As reported in Mother Jones, among other outlets:

  2. Pingback: Another Week in the Planetary Crisis, April 14, 2013 – A Few Things Ill Considered

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