All In   |  April 01, 2013

Arkansas oil pipeline rupture foreshadows devastating environmental impact

Chris discusses a recent oil pipeline rupture in Mayflower, Arkansas and the long-term effects this will have. He is joined by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., 350.org’s May Boeve, CNBC’s Dan Dicker, Glen Hooks from the Sierra Club of Arkansas.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> good news and bad news today for the residents of mayflower, arkansas . the good news is than exxon announced they're sdweping an official plan to evacuate an oil pipeline that ruptured underneath a mayflower subdivision friday. the bad news is this is how the residents spent their easter weekend ?

>> so that is a pipeline that is busted and has flooded the neighborhood and is going all the way to the drain at the end of the street. um, luckily our house is here, which is seemingly unaffected, but the smell is unbelievable. i mean, look. incredible. and that is oil.

>> that is oil. more precisely, that is heavy crude oil from the tar sands of cand cand spewing out onto the lawns and sidewalks and the basketball hoops of the suburban area . the 20-inch mobile pipeline carrying the crude burst on friday, almost in two dozen homes in the area have been evacuated while the clean-up gets under way. the epa has classified it as a major spill. exxonmobil has not announced how much has spilled yet as of this evening they have cleaned up 12 million barrels. it was common to hear the residents say they didn't know they lived essentially on top of a 60-year-old oil pipeline . and in the cable news business, the degrew of an oil spill is determined by the pictures. these come from arkansas . most of these birds are been bathed at least once before the pictures were taken. just two days before the big suburban spill in arkansas , a train derailed in minnesota spilling 15,000 gallons of crude into a rural minnesota field. we don't know for sure whether that was also tar sands oil, but we do know it came from alberta. as for the pipeline that ruptured in arkansas , that pipeline used to carry crude oil from texas up north to illinois, but in 2006 because there were so much heavy crude oil coming out of canada, exxon reversed it so now it flows north to south. as america is projected to become the western hemisphere 's hub for oil production , some estimate we'll outpass saudi arabia by 2020 , we have a view of what our oil fields can look like. this could be your neighborhood soon. they're set to do particularly at the keystone pipeline is ultimately approved whether it's fracking in your backyard or a pipeline under your subdivision, this is the future of fossil fuel america unless we decide collectively to join another future. joining me, bernie sanders , independent from vermont, may bouvier, from the classroots climate change , and dan, a cnbc contributor, and we're joined by glen hooks of the sierra club of arkansas . no one from exxonmobil or the american petroleum institute was available to join us. glen, i'll begin with you. how big of story is it there and what are residents being told?

>> we're here in mayflower, arkansas . thanks for coffering the story. when you get off the freeway, you can really smell the oil spill . i spent some time today walking through the evacuated neighborhoods. there aren't a lot of neighbors around to tell their story, but the story is told by their oil soaked backyard, the smell in the street, and the fact that the tar sands oil has taken a chunk out of mayflower, arkansas .

>> my producers and i were going through newsathies of the spill. it was so startling. almost no one seemed to know they were atop this oil pipeline .

>> no, they don't know that. and actually, what exxon has been telling folks, the story seems to be that this is just regular old west texas crude. when in fact it is tar sands thick canadian oil coming from alberta, as you mentioned. this is a much bigger mess than a simple crude spill. this is something if it gets in the water is going to sink. we're talking about dredging. you're right, not a lot of people knew it exists and didn't know it was carrying this dirty canadian tar sands .

>> will you explain why it's harder to clean up this stuff than your normal crude?

>> a lot of time whz you have an oil spill , you can use skimmers and skim it off the water because the oil will float. this is not your typical crude oil . it's heavier, thicker, dirtier, therefore a lot more dangerous. if it gets in the waterways, it's going to sink, not going to float. you're talking about a potentially disastrous dredging process in an area that is right here in the natural state. not where you would expect to find canadian tar sands oil.

>> a few years ago, there was an oil spill in kalamazoo, michigan, which was also this heavy oil . the epa staff that worked on this, had never encountered a spill of this type of material and this unprecedented volume under these kinds of conditions. you get a sense of this is stuff that is different than what people are used to being able to clean up.

>> right, so tar sands oil has the highest carbon content of any oil we know of. and right now, the spill we're seeing in arkansas is a devastating shocker about it, as you alluded to, is that this pipeline carries one tenth of what the proposed keystone xl pipeline would carry. imagine the photos we're seeing from arkansas times ten, and that overlaid over the ogalala aquafer in washington.

>> i'm going to push back, not because i'm in favor of all for keystone .

>> you're on record.

>> pro oil spill . here is what the oil companies --

>> i would have loved to have hem.

>> this is a brand new pipeline and is in fact much less likely to rupture than this 80-year-old pipeline . we have dozens of pipelines running through, and unfortunately infrastructure on pipelines is the same as the infrastructure on bridges and roads and tunnels. that is it's falling apart and no one fixes them unless they need them. not that i'm in favor of this, it's a horrible tragedy. we do have hundreds of spills every year and this is going to be one they say the keystone pipeline helps out on.

>> as a senator for the energy committee and someone who has talked a lot about the keystone , when you see these images, what is your response?

>> my response is it reminds me of what happened in the gulf coast , it reminds me of exxon valdez , but i'll tell you what, chris, it really raises the border question. and that is whether we continue to be a carbon based economy, whether we finally recognize that if we don't get a handle on greenhouse gas submissions that this planet is going to be facing some disastrous problems in years to come. as a member of the energy committee and the environmental committee we have talked to scientists and they say the estimations we made for global warming damage, we were wrong. good we don't get our act together and start cutting in a very significant greenhouse gas emissions , we're talking about this planet heating up by eight degrees fahrenheit by the end of the century . and that is calamitous for this planet.

>> and here's the thing. there are alternatives, and you never hear about a solar spill. when you hear about a solar spill, we call it a beautiful day .

>> okay, but keystone has become this kind of flash point for the environmental movement . and obviously, this being in the news is -- is useful. it's a catalyzing moment, right? as we all think about building this masage new pipeline . part is built, part is being built, the last part which crosses the border in the north is awaiting approval, and the idea here is the reason this is so important isn't just because you're going to get oil spills and that's part of it, but it's that this will push us over into some new territory. but dan, the argument that gets made by the state department and their draft environmental impact study and by a lot of people is that oil is coming out no matter what. when you look at how much money there is to be made from it and the amount of capital investment firms are willing to do to extract it, that seems like there's something to do with the argument.

>> and the spill proves to you, for example, that keystone is just one pipeline . and in fact, canadian sands are coming down to this country. even if the president were to disallow keystone from being built, it would not stop canadian oil sands from coming to this country. they will tell you they don't particularly need keystone xl in order to move the amount of canadian sands they want to move. it just makes things a whole heck of a lot easier. keysto keystone already exists. one of the issues you have to deal with is i think this is an important point that you have to take on keystone because it's a symbol, an important one. that shouldn't be lost. what should be remembered are the truths about canadian oil sands . they are coming into the country already. they will continue to come into the country.

>> i think very simply, here's what the truth is, the truth is the president of the united states , the congress and the american people have got to say this is it. not only do we not want a keystone xl pipeline , but we have got to fundamentally transform our energy system away from coil, away from oil, and into energy and energy efficiency . people talk about economics. we're fighting for the fumper of the planet. we're talking about more and more sandies and irenes, which cost huge amounts of money in terms of rebuilding those communities, not to mention the future disasters that we'll see.

>> yet, here strikes me as the problem. on march 22nd , a symbolic vote in your august body, the senate, 72-37 against a symbolic resolution calling for approval of the keystone pipeline including democrats, quite a few, baucus, casey, connelly, and senator pryor of the great state of arkansas .

>> i don't know how the president walks away considering he's appeared in the election period in front of the pipelines. he said he was waiting for the governor of alaska to approve routing. he's gotten studies. i don't know how he says no to keystone . even though he probably should.

>> i want to ask after the break, how do you say no to keystone ? and i want to hear your thoughts on your senator and how this might change his mind right after the break.

>>> i have led the efforts in the house to support the keystone xl pipeline . project that would bring more north american energy to the marketplace. and put thousands to work. the obama administration continues to