AG McDaniel critical of ExxonMobil after visit to oil spill site

MAYFLOWER (KATV) - Arkansas' attorney general said he came away from his visit to the oil spill site with more questions than answers.

The oil leak sprung five days ago but ExxonMobil spokespeople still could not tell Dustin McDaniel how long the Pegasus Pipeline leaked for, how deep the plume was or what caused the rupture.

"That neighborhood was like a scene from 'The Walking Dead'," McDaniel told the media after his visit. "There were still Easter decorations on homes but there was not a soul in sight other than people in Hazmat suits."

After expressing concern for families displaced by this spill, McDaniel said he was also upset by his own treatment while touring the site. He was also critical of Exxon's assessment of the situation.

"I have been reminded by Exxon's representatives that this is a relatively small spill and cleanup is going just great," he said. "I hope they realize that to the homeowners in this area, this is not small - it is catastrophic. And for those who fear for their drinking water, it is not 'great'."

McDaniel also addressed a media report that surfaced Wednesday alleging that the type of crude spilled in this incident is not actually oil, exempting ExxonMobil from contributing to the government's oil spillage cleanup fund.

"I don't care if they get the money out of their operating checking account or from a liability trust fund or from private insurance carriers. However that they are indemnified for the damages they have to pay in Arkansas is really their concern, not mine."

Acting as the state's attorney, McDaniel said his investigation was still very preliminary as of Wednesday evening, but that legal action against ExxonMobil of some kind is a certainty.

"I've issued a subpoena to Exxon [Tuesday] night and we've heard from them [Wednesday] morning about their compliance with my demand for them to produce documents and data now."

McDaniel said this is a reminder of the need for pipeline maintenance inspection and safety standards. He also left no doubt as to what's to come.

"This is not a litigation subpoena in the traditional sense. The law provides the attorney general of the state with the power to subpoena documents, etc., in any matter in which the state's interest may be litigated in the future and I think it's a certainty this will be in litigation at some point."

A federal report issued Tuesday says ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. inspected part of the pipe that burst in 2010 and again in February.

"We have a pipeline that was 65 years old and ruptured in someone's backyard so either the inspections were not adequate or there was something completely beyond the ability to identify in the inspection, which I find very unlikely."

McDaniel said ExxonMobil indicated they would have lawyers of their own in Arkansas as early as Wednesday.

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