Nightly News   |  April 02, 2013

Arkansas investigates oil spill

Exxon Mobil insisted the age of the 65-year-old pipeline did not play a role in the rupture, saying inspection was up to date. NBC’s Anne Thompson reports.

Share This:

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

>>> the state attorney general in arkansas is now investigating the break of an exxon mobile pipeline that sent thousands of gallons of crude oil flowing down the street into a residential neighborhood over easter weekend . the leak is bringing a lot of attention to our national network of pipelines, and re-igniting debate over another notable pipeline project. our report tonight from our chief environmental affairs correspondent anne thompson .

>> reporter: from the air, it looks like a dark stain on this neighborhood. 20 miles north of little rock .

>> the smell is unbelievable. i mean, look. incredible. and that is oil.

>> reporter: exxon mobil shut down the 65-year-old pipeline, insisting age did not play a role in the rupture.

>> the age of the pipeline does not determine its integrity. the process is you inspect it. when you find issues, you repair those issues. our inspection process is up to date.

>> reporter: shannon williams is one of 22 homeowners who still can't return to their houses. he says he had no idea the house he built for his wife and three children was so close to an oil pipeline .

>> and we wanted to just stay in our home. we couldn't. i was in there for maybe ten minutes max, grabbing additional items and my head began to hurt from the fumes. i wouldn't dare take my children into that.

>> reporter: booms hold back the oil from a popular fishing lake but some birds have been harmed. over 100,000 miles of oil pipelines crisscross this country. this oil is heavy crude from alberta , canada. piped in to illinois, then sent to neederland, texas. it's similar to what spilled in the kalamazoo river almost three years ago and is still being cleaned up. and similar to what could be carried in the proposed keystone pipeline extension across a wide swath of america's heartland. some environmentalists hope this spill will convince president obama to reject keystone.

>> the oil itself is thicker and nastier, so when it spills it's going to be harder to clean up.

>> reporter: last week we were up in alberta , canada, where the keystone oil would come from. producers insist it is no more dangerous to the environment than california's heavy crude .

>> it's absolutely a red herring . we've been transporting this oil by pipeline for 40 years now to alberta with no problems.

>> reporter: now this spill is very small compared to the bp disaster in the gulf. we're talking 12,000 barrels of oil and water recovered in arkansas. versus the 55,000 barrels a day that gushed from the damaged well. but its political impact could be very big, brian.

>> anne thompson reporting on the spill for us tonight. anne,