In letters sent to Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson and to the head of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), ranking member on the House Natural Resources Committee, revealed that ExxonMobil was using a response plan that allowed for increased time to detect and respond to accidents during their pipeline spill in Mayflower, AR in March. But that response plan had not yet been approved by the agency overseeing pipeline safety, and was only submitted two weeks before the spill that has displaced residents and sullied a neighborhood.
Exxon had been operating under a response plan received by PHMSA on March 14, 2013, two weeks before the spill, which increases the total estimated response time to 18 minutes to detect a rupture and shut down the Pegasus pipeline under a “Worst Case Discharge” scenario. That plan has not yet been approved, however, and the 2009 version on the books has a time of 12 minutes as its worst case scenario response. It took Exxon at least 16 minutes to detect the rupture in Arkansas and shut it down. A difference in just a few minutes could mean thousands of additional barrels of oil spilled during a pipeline rupture.