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Exxon Wants Key Pipeline Inspections Kept Secret

A letter from federal officials regarding their investigation into the Mayflower oil spill has sparked concern over key inspections conducted before the spill ever happened.
MAYFLOWER, AR -- A letter from federal officials regarding their investigation into the Mayflower oil spill has sparked concern over key inspections conducted before the spill ever happened.

The Pegasus pipeline ruptured March 29th leaking thousands of barrels of crude oil into a residential neighborhood and marsh near Lake Conway.

Six weeks before the spill happened ExxonMobil sent a piece of equipment through the line during a routine test to check for potential problems.

The results of that inspection haven't been made public.

"We don't believe the line should be restarted until we know what caused the rupture in Mayflower and until we're confident that none of those conditions or situations are present," said John Tynan with Central Arkansas Water.

For C.A.W., achieving that confidence may be difficult if ExxonMobil gets it way as the company is requesting results of the February 13th inspection and another from 2010 be kept confidential.

ExxonMobil has provided results from those inspections to the U.S. Department of Transportation but is arguing that they are not subject to requests by other agencies and news organizations under the Freedom of Information Act.

"This information is needed for us to evaluate the safety of the drinking water supply for 400,000 people throughout the region," Tynan said.

C.A.W. is concerned because the same pipeline that ruptured in Mayflower runs through the Lake Maumelle watershed.
   
The agency says cleanup there would be a lot more difficult than it was in the marsh near Lake Conway where on Saturday it was obvious improvements in the remediation process have been made.

ExxonMobil responded to questions about why the company is seeking to have the documents kept secret with the below statement:

"The information from our pipeline inspections is provided to PHMSA(Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.)  Some of the information relating to pipeline operations and maintenance is confidential in nature due to commercial and other considerations.

We are working with Central Arkansas Water to understand and address their concerns.

We sincerely regret that the crude oil release in Mayflower occurred and apologize for the disruption and inconvenience that it has caused to the citizens of Arkansas. We will not restart the Pegasus pipeline until we are satisfied it is safe to do so and have the approval of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
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