Sure seems like it. According to reports from the ground, Exxon is in full control of the response to the 12,000 barrels of tar sands oil that began spilling from Exxon’s ruptured pipeline in Arkansas last weekend. The skies above the spill has been deemed a no-fly zone, and all requests to fly low over the area to take pictures must be approved by Exxon’s own “aviation advisor” Tom Suhrhoff.
In addition, the entire area has been cordoned off and news media have been prevented from inspecting the damage.
Now, Exxon is trying to limit access to the animals impacted by the tar sands crude. A wildlife management company hired by Exxon has taken over all oiled wild animal care. The company, called Wildlife Response Services, is now refusing to release pictures and documentation of the animals in their care, unless they are authorized by Exxon’s public relations department.
The spill, which leaked heavy, viscous tar sands oil, emanates from the Pegasus Pipeline, which was built in the 1940’s. The pipeline pumps a crude oil and tar mixture from the Alberta tar sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast, just like the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. However, the Pegasus is much smaller, carrying 90,000 barrels per day (BPD), while the Keystone would carry 800,000 BPD. Tar sands oil is shipped through pipelines in the form of diluted bitumen (dilbit), which must be heated and forced through the pipeline at high pressure. Due to the corrosive nature of the tar sands oil, which contains sand, plus the high temperature and high pressure needed to pump it through the pipes, tar sands oil pipelines are particularly dangerous.
Exxon’s control of the oil spill response is reminiscent of the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, when the polluter, BP, effectively controlled the response and cleanup.