Mayflower residents oppose Keystone XL pipeline in D.C.


WASHINGTON — Two Mayflower residents who live near the site of the Pegasus pipeline spill stood outside the State Department Thursday with a message for Secretary John Kerry to reject the Keystone XL pipeline project.

“The issues I am having are my children and their safety,” said Genieve Long, a mother of four.

Long said she fears that toxic chemicals released during the spill will reach the community’s water supply and put her family at risk.

“It creates a safety hazard for everyone — wildlife and humans. Once it is in the water it will not go anywhere,” she said. “Secretary Kerry, we invite you to our community — to Mayflower — to see firsthand and stop the Keystone XL pipeline.”

Damian Byers, 52, said he worries that the pipeline spill has forever reduced the value of his property — a five- or six-acre plot that is crossed by the pipeline. It’s land that he hoped would provide for his child’s future.

“I’m not an environmentalist. I’m not a tree hugger. I’m not an activist. I’m a single daddy with a 15-month-old kid,” he said.

The two traveled here to hand-deliver a letter to Kerry urging him to reject the Keystone XL pipeline project that is designed to carry tar sands crude from Canada to Gulf Coast refiners. The Pegasus pipeline carries a similar grade of crude along an 850-mile stretch between Illinois and Texas.

The letter, signed by nearly two dozen Mayflower residents, said that after witnessing the devastation caused by the spill in their community they could not stand by and watch other families be imperiled by construction of a similar pipeline through their neighborhoods.

“Before you issue your final evaluation of Keystone XL, we ask that you and your staff come to Mayflower to see what happens when a tar sands pipeline ruptures,” they wrote.

Kerry was out of the country on Thursday. Byers and Long were not allowed into the State Department building but did give their letter to Kerry’s office. They plan to send a copy by mail to be certain he receives it.

The All Risk No Reward Coalition, made up of national and state environmental groups, paid for their trip.

About 5,000 barrels of oil spilled when the pipeline ruptured March 29, forcing the evacuation of nearly two dozen homes in the Northwoods neighborhood of Mayflower, about 25 miles northwest of Little Rock.

The Environmental Protection Agency has categorized the incident as a “major spill” because it was greater than 250 gallons.

The Arkansas congressional delegation has supported the Keystone pipeline in large measure because the steel pipe would come from Welspun Tubular in Little Rock.

Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, said that pipelines remain the safest way to transport oil.