LITTLE ROCK — The House approved legislation Friday meant to put oil companies on notice to steer clear of public water supplies when building new pipelines in Arkansas.
House members voted 84-0 to approve HB 1922 by Rep. John Edwards, D-Little Rock, titled The Public Surface Water Supply Protection Act. The bill would not impose any new restrictions on operators of petroleum pipelines, but it would encourage them not to build a pipeline within the watershed of a public surface water supply.
If a pipeline crosses a water course that empties into a public surface water supply, the bill would encourage the operator to install a cut-off valve and prepare a risk mitigation plan and a plan for responding to spills.
“Everyone in this room knows there was a pipeline leak into Lake Conway,” Edwards told House members, referring to the March 29 rupture of ExxonMobil’s Pegasus pipeline in Mayflower, which resulted in the spill of thousands of barrels of oil.
“What that brought to light was that there are a lot of pipelines throughout the state, some of which cross into the watersheds of our drinking water supplies,” he said.
ExxonMobil initially said no oil had leaked into Lake Conway, but after Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and others pointed out that oil had leaked into a cove that is part of the lake, the company clarified that there was no oil in “the main body of Lake Conway.”
Edwards said the Legislature does not have jurisdiction over interstate pipelines, but he said his bill seeks to encourage precautions to protect the state’s water supplies.
The bill goes to the Senate.