Arkansas spill fuels Keystone XL debate


Mayflower, Arkansas is not a big place ... population 23, 000, the kind of town where the Mayor's yearly address includes detail on culverts and the new fire truck. But after Friday's pipeline spill that saw diluted bitumen gush down the streets, Mayflower is the Canadian pipeline debate writ large with one side arguing the spill points up the need for new pipelines and the other pointing to a reason to stop Keystone.

Resident of Mayflower, Arkansas - Joe Bradley

Whatever their personal opinion of Canadian oil, it's a safe bet no American wants a pool of the stuff on their front lawn or leaking into neighborhood ditches. But that's what many people in Mayflower, Arkansas face after Exxon's Pegasus pipeline ruptured on Friday.

Clean up crews continue to vacuum up the mess and Exxon estimates 12,000 barrels of oil and water have been recovered. It's believed none of the oil reached Lake Conway - a local source of drinking water.

Joe Bradley lives on North Starlite road in Mayflower and he has been forced from his home. He and his eight year old daughter are staying at a hotel this morning. And that's where we reached him.

Alberta's Minister of International & Intergovernmental Relations

People looking for grounds to dislike pipelines likely put "leaks" at the top of the list. Some say this spill provides more reasons not to build the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Texas. But advocates say Keystone will be different.

"Keystone XL will be built with modern high-quality steel using state-of-the-art construction practices and 57 additional conditions suggested by the U.S. Federal Government. The government concluded in an environmental impact statement that Keystone XL would be one of the safest pipelines ever built and I certainly agree." - Andy Black, President of the Association of Oil Pipelines in Washington, DC.

From materials to inspection techniques, he argues that much has changed since Pegasus was installed in the late 1940s. Cal Dallas agrees that pipeline technology has evolved for the better. He's Alberta's Minister of International and Intergovernmental Relations. We reached him in Edmonton.

Director of the Get Off Oil program, Daniel Gatti

The rupture of the Pegasus pipeline in Arkansas certainly makes for some ominous television pictures -- but not that many people are directly affected and it doesn't appear that drinking water has been contaminated.

Nevertheless, our next guest believes it will probably fuel opposition to the debate over the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. Daniel Gatti is the director of the Get Off Oil program at the advocacy group Environment America. He joined us from Amherst, Massachusetts.

This segment was produced by The Current's Lara O'Brien, Vanessa Greco and Catherine Kalbfleisch.

To add your thoughts to anything you hear on the show, tweet us @thecurrentcbc. Or on Facebook. Or email us from our website. And if you missed the conversation on yesterday's edition of The Current, you can hear it on our podcast.

Other segments from today's show:

Canadian terrorists involved in the Algeria hostage taking

Hugh Burnett: Shaping civil rights in Canada

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