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Obama spoke at the TransCanada Stillwater pipe yard in Cushing, Oklahoma about the Keystone XL pipeline and his energy policies. Mandel Ngan/Getty Images. Obama spoke at the TransCanada Stillwater pipe yard in Cushing, Oklahoma about the Keystone XL pipeline and his energy policies. Mandel Ngan/Getty Images.  

Anti-Keystone XL billionaire targets Arkansas oil spill in new ad

California billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer is continuing his ad campaign against the Keystone XL pipeline, this time appearing in Mayflower, Arkansas, where an underground oil pipeline burst open.

“We know from Mayflower that these pipelines burst at the worst times in the least-prepared places, rural communities with little to no spill management infrastructure,” Steyer spokesman Mike Casey said in an interview with the Vancouver Sun.

In March, an underground ExxonMobil oil pipeline burst open near the town of Mayflower, spilling 5,000 barrels of crude oil. Exxon quickly shut off the pipeline about 90 seconds after receiving a low-pressure alarm — the full shut down took about 16 minutes and emergency responders were on the ground within half an hour.

Environmentalists have pointed to the Mayflower incident as further evidence of the environmental harms posed by Keystone XL.

“The people who got it the worst in Mayflower weren’t the ones whose basements were flooded; they were they people who lived down-wind and were exposed to air-borne toxins,” Casey said.

However, Republicans argue that while the Mayflower incident was unfortunate, it does not mean that Keystone — which will be decades more advanced than Mayflower — should not be approved.

“They never let a good crisis go to waste because their arguments aren’t new,” Arkansas Republican Rep. Tim Griffin told the Daily Caller News Foundation in an email. “They want to limit access to the resources that heat and cool our homes and power our cars, the electricity that keeps our refrigerators running.”

“But you don’t see them turning off their iPhones or not driving their cars,” Griffin added. “They still use the thousands of plastic household products that are all made from oil.”

The pipeline is nearing its fifth year waiting approval, despite the Obama administration’s State Department saying that the pipeline would have little impact on the environment or on U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.

Alternative modes of transportation could potentially harm the enviroment more, according to the State Department. The New York Times reported that “alternate means of transporting the oil — rail, truck and barge — also have significant environmental and economic impacts, including higher costs, noise, traffic, air pollution and the possibility of spills.”

Keystone proponents also point to the fact that TransCanada, the company building the pipeline, agreed to 57 special safety conditions that go beyond what is being required by regulators.

“Every year, pipelines transport more than 11 billion barrels of oil, and last year, less than five ten-thousandths of one percent of it was lost to spills. Now, opponents of affordable energy see the accident in Mayflower as an opportunity to advance their agenda,” Griffin said.

Steyer’s ad is set to air this Sunday during morning political talk shows, and will stress the point that pipelines are especially dangerous to those living near them.

“If the oil industry is so certain that it’s not going to create more Mayflowers, why don’t they sign a legally binding document that exposes them to criminal liability, or forces them to cover cleanup costs, when their pipelines rupture?” Casey said.

The Obama administration is not expected to make a decision on the pipeline until early 2014 when the State Department concludes its inquiry into whether or not the contractor used to do the department’s review of the pipeline had ties to the oil industry.

 President Obama said he would only greenlight the project to bring Canadian tar sands oil into the U.S. if it did not significantly add to U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.

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