Covering Up Exxon’s Mayflower Mess
On Sunday, April 9th, I, like many others concerned about the Keystone Pipeline and the impact of tar sands on local and global environments, had been following the events of the Exxon Pegasus Pipeline spill in Mayflower Arkansas for over a week. Most of the information about the event seemed to be coming from alternative social media sources rather than mainstream news organizations. Some of those sources were describing the scene as ‘something like martial law’. I know what martial law looks like.
It came to my attention early Sunday that a former colleague, Michael Hibblen, who is now the News Director at KUAR in Little Rock, was reporting on the story for his station and for NPR. I decided to call him to ask for an interview about his experience trying to cover the story. He graciously agreed. What follows is a condensed version of that phone interview. A complete, unedited transcript is available on request, and a completely unedited audio file of the interview is available at http://snd.sc/10Nt6jo.
There are a lot of details here, including the details of Mr. Hibblen’s near arrest by Deputy Sheriffs apparently acting on orders from Exxon.
While there is often much – and well deserved – criticism of mainstream media, I think this conversation with Mr. Hibblen illuminates very well, in a very honest way that is not often committed to print, the difficulties faced by a shrinking and impoverished set of local journalists trying to do their work with very few resources, mostly indifferent civil authorities, and enormously wealthy and secretive organizations.
STEPHEN MALAGODI INTERVIEWS MICHAEL HIBBLEN
SUNDAY, APRIL 7, 2013
Stephen Malagodi: Michael, you’re the news director at KUAR in Little Rock. We met when you were at the Miami Herald, and you have since moved back to Little Rock, and you’re from Arkansas, so it’s probably safe to say you have some feeling for the land of Arkansas itself.
Michael Hibblen: Sure.
Stephen Malagodi: How did you first hear about the spill?
Michael Hibblen: We got word of this late Friday [03/29] afternoon, about a week and a half ago… we saw a news bulletin I think from one of the TV stations and that’s when we reached out to Arkansas Department of Emergency Management and learned that a pipeline had ruptured, apparently spilling oil into a neighborhood, and that’s when we started reporting on it.
Stephen Malagodi: So you called Arkansas emergency management. There was no initial communication out to the media from them to you?
Michael Hibblen: No, we reached out to them before they even had a chance to send out a press release or anything like that. It was late Friday afternoon, so most government offices were closing or had already closed and I ended up reaching out to the county judge for Faulkner County. That’s where this happened, north of Little Rock… [condensed for length] …and I sent him an e-mail, heard back from him later that evening, and the first time we got any kind of confirmation on tape was talking with him early the next morning [Saturday 03/30] before we started our Saturday morning newscast, and at that point his main message was it could have been a lot worse. …[condensed for length] … and Monday finally I got over to the site where this was happening, a small town called Mayflower, and at that point I was able to talk with a spokesman from Exxon Mobil and the county judge, and at that point this wasn’t getting a lot of attention. This was pretty much being looked at as a fairly minor oil spill, but as the story continued to progress, the residents – there were 22 home owners near where this pipeline ruptured who were evacuated. They had initially been told it would only be a couple of days. Here we are now nine days later and they’re still evacuated. And as this has gone on, more questions have been raised and as more media have shown up to see this, there was more and more of a reluctance on the part of Exxon Mobil or others to let the media in to view the site. Most of the footage and photos that we got came from the same day that the accident happened. After that, it was basically you had a checkpoint at the entrance, only one entrance to this small neighborhood, and from then on you had the local county sheriff’s department running the checkpoint as Exxon Mobil oversaw the cleanup in conjunction with local emergency officials, but at that point you started hearing less, especially from Exxon Mobil, in terms of media availability. Beyond that, Monday [04/01] when I spoke to one spokesman for the company who expressed how sorry they are for the accident, how they were going to make sure they did what it took to clean the spill, take care of any expenses, pay for any damage. But from then on we didn’t hear as much from Exxon Mobil.
Stephen Malagodi: How did you make the decision to allocate resources, probably yourself, to make that trip, an hour away from Little Rock, up to Mayflower on Monday? In other words, how did you know the story was big enough to allocate those kinds of resources to it, on Monday?
Michael Hibblen: Well clearly, as we were getting more word of the volumes of oil, or the tar sands as it’s called, that had spilled, clearly we knew that this warranted more attention. We have, like a lot of news departments, very limited staff on weekends, but on that Monday, talking with my boss and all, we pretty much knew that we needed to go up there, try to get some residents, try to get some essentials, and do more than just talk to the county administrator. So that was when I went up there. I had apparently just missed an availability where they had brought in some reporters [who] didn’t get very far into the neighborhood, but at least gave them from down the street a shot of what was happening, but I was at least able to talk to the spokesman for Exxon Mobil at that point and get more tape with the county judge.
On Wednesday [04/03], we had gotten word from the Attorney General of Arkansas, a Democrat named Dustin McDaniel. He was launching – he decided to launch an investigation looking into the cause of this spill and also how it was being handled, and he had become more critical of Exxon Mobil … [condensed for length] … and so he was going to be going up to the site along with state officials and attorneys from the Attorney General’s office along with investigators as they launched an investigation into this. They also issued subpoenas and ordered Exxon Mobil to preserve all documents related to this. Well, Wednesday when he was going up to do the tour, I had spoken with the spokesman for the Attorney General’s office and he told me that they didn’t mind if I followed him around as they toured the property, but it was still the county that was essentially controlling security in and out of the area. Following the Attorney General’s motorcade, I was able to get in as a member of the media, as were several others. We parked, got out of our vehicles and went over to the site that the Attorney General was going to be touring. At that point the county judge told us that in terms of liability, we were all on our own, we were there at our risk. We were also told that you have to stay in this small area. You can get shots and follow from a distance, but you can’t go beyond a certain post that he pointed to, and we were all, “That’s fine.” We all agreed with that. And then as the Attorney General started walking through, it was about 90 seconds into his tour as we were just kind of following him from a distance, that suddenly deputies with the Faulkner County sheriff’s office started yelling, “Exxon Mobil has decided they don’t want you here, so you have to leave immediately.” Some reporters began questioning, “Well, who made this decision? Who can we talk to about this?” At that point the deputies began saying, “You’ve got 10 seconds to leave or you will be arrested.” And a lot of us had problems with that, but in my case NPR was waiting for tape for a piece that they were putting together on this and I had a deadline to get stories fed and together for our afternoon newscast, so the last thing I needed to do was to make a stand and not get tape to the people who were waiting for it, so at that point I left. There was no one from Exxon Mobil there to speak with us on that day, Thursday [04/04] and Friday we didn’t hear anything back, and it wasn’t until today [04/07] that I found out from a secondhand source, another reporter friend, there wasn’t a press release put out, but they did open up the site for the media to come in and for us to finally get a firsthand look at the cleanup that was underway. I should also mention, there was the FAA on Wednesday [04/03]. They ordered a No Fly Zone around the cleanup site, apparently at the request of Exxon Mobil, and it came after the local NBC affiliate had flown a helicopter overhead and they were told to get out of this space and from between Wednesday and Friday there was that No Fly order over the neighborhood there. Then that was lifted on Friday [04/05], and as I said, today [04/07] they finally let the media in and they walked all of us through the neighborhood from a safe vantage point but fairly close to all of the areas connected to this cleanup. … [condensed for length] … They also showed us the places where the oil went down a roadway. … [condensed for length] … But we finally were able to get in and take a look at the site today. But it’s been nine days.
One person who had reached out to me who had heard about the limited access to the media was with the National Press Photographers Association, and as he told me on the phone today, “Well, they’ve had nine days to clean up or hide or do whatever they want. It’s not enough nine days after the fact to now open it up and say that you’re being open with the media.”
Stephen Malagodi: Let’s just back up a little bit to the incident with the Attorney General. Now, you said that after just a short while the local sheriff’s department deputies told you you had to leave, and I guess you were threatened with arrest if you didn’t leave. You said that the deputies said that Exxon had decided. But you also said that there was no one from Exxon on site. So was it completely unclear as to where that order came from?
Michael Hibblen: There – yeah… It probably was someone there but just no one was made available to the media. …[condensed for length] … but I’m just speculating, but, yeah, in fact they even said at one point, “Exxon Media wants you out.” Well, what’s Exxon Media? And they… clearly someone had decided only shortly… and I was recording as the tour was going on so I even was able to check the time and see it was about 90 seconds after we had agreed to the conditions with the local administrator up until suddenly we were told, Exxon Mobil does not want the media here. But it was mainly just that they [Exxon] did not have anyone, they didn’t make anyone available to the media or want to offer any justification or allow anyone who media could argue with about this.
Stephen Malagodi: Yeah. And it’s, you know, understandable, you were under deadline and it’s never any fun getting arrested, but it wasn’t a crime scene, or there didn’t seem to be any danger. … You went to journalism school at the University of Arkansas, I believe, in Little Rock…. How do you train for these kinds of situations where there doesn’t seem to be any legitimate authority behind what someone is telling you to do. In other words, even if it wasn’t a deputy sheriff, it could have been … a security guard who has no real legal authority [saying], “You can’t be here.” Well as a journalist, how do you make that decision about who’s got authority and is it legal for you to do what you’re doing?
Michael Hibblen: Yeah. Well, it was an emergency situation and is still considered such and they do have the whole neighborhood cordoned off, so I think it is about the equivalent of a crime scene just because they do consider this still an ongoing emergency. So at that point it’s, – my initial reaction was, “Well, this is a public street.” But they were saying, you know, “No, this is, you know, we are dealing with an emergency here.” There may not have been any impending danger at that point, but clearly there are issues when you’re not allowed to even enter the [area], especially as I said after the county administrator, who’s one of four people overseeing this, laid out the ground rules for us about liability and where you can be, we were all fine with that, and we were just going to watch the Attorney General from a distance and then talk to him afterwards. So at that point, just because – and he was already running late, and NPR was already getting antsy because it was getting later and closer to their deadlines. At that point we all pretty much decided, okay, we’ll go ahead and get out of here. We’ve got some footage, and we did speak with the Attorney General afterwards over at the City Hall in Mayflower. But it is a good question and it was a hard call to make, how much more do you argue about this? Listening back to the tape of it, I had set my mic down. I had a shotgun mike that I was using, but I also needed to get photos for our website, so I had set it down and left it recording so I at least knew the timeline then. … [condensed for length] …
And I should point out too, the Attorney General pretty much accused Exxon Mobil of trying to kind of control how he was handling that. He said when he got there, they wanted to put he and his investigators into a van and take them on a tour, and his exact words pretty much were, “I’m not here for a tour and I’m not getting into a van driven by one of you. I’m here with my investigators and we’re going to go here and take a look at this ourselves.” So it’s clearly an attempt by Exxon Mobil to control not only the media but also to try and perhaps corral the Attorney General, at least limit him. And he was like, “And I’m the attorney on behalf of the state of Arkansas and I’m here to look out for the interests of the residents and the people here. So, no, I’m not getting into a van driven by one of your people, I’m here to see for myself.” And I think perhaps he was since told that [that attitude] made Exxon Mobil more defensive in this. … [condensed for length] … While the local county sheriff’s department was controlling the scene, clearly from that initial response, and maybe they may have even wished they didn’t say it like that, but that pretty much gave the impression that Exxon Mobil was calling the shots and was controlling the scene.
[condensed for length]
Stephen Malagodi: Right. So, as far as communications is concerned, does Exxon Mobil have its own communications operation and the civil authorities have their communication operations, or is there a unified communications center or something like that? I’m kind of interested in the sources of information, Exxon versus civil authority.
Michael Hibblen: We are able to talk with local agencies and they can give us what information they have. For instance, we’ve talked at different times to the Department of Health, the state Department of Health, which will eventually decide whether or not, or decide when it is safe for people to return to their homes, and we’ve talked with the Department of Environmental Quality, talked separately with the Attorney General. So we can speak to different people, and we do get different responses to them. For instance, the Attorney General was saying that this has reached Lake Conway. That because it’s technically reached the cove that feeds into Lake Conway, he considers Lake Conway to be [affected], for oil to technically have reached it, whereas Exxon Mobil insists, well, no, that it has reached the cove but the cove is not [Lake Conway]. So you get into technicalities. But we are able to speak to different organizations and we get different opinions from different people, the different agencies involved here. But essentially it is in the control of the local county authorities and unless either they feel Exxon Mobil is not following through on what they’ve promised and not handling it in the public interest, or the Attorney General sees that Exxon Mobil is not handling this, he can issue orders. And I’m sure the federal government can. … [condensed for length] … It’s being done with regulators watching all of this, and pretty much everyone, even the Attorney General, who’s been critical of Exxon Mobil, still says that the company seems to be doing a good job in the cleanup and they don’t have reason to believe otherwise, but it still goes back to the question of who really is calling the shots. Is Exxon Mobil using its influence or power to control the scene? The Attorney General seems to be the only one who’s really gotten his feathers ruffled in this.
Stephen Malagodi: I’m wondering if, or exactly when the story got politicized. I think Bill McKibben had statements out on Facebook and Twitter on Saturday night or Sunday [3/30]. Inside Climate News had somebody there very, very quickly putting out photos and video. And Tar Sands Blockade has been very, very active. So this got politicized into the Keystone debate almost before you get there.
Michael Hibblen: Yes.
Stephen Malagodi: How did that affect the reporting, and perhaps the actions of the Attorney General or others in the Arkansas government?
Michael Hibblen: Uh, I’m not sure. There’s a funny irony about this in that there is a company here in Little Rock called Welspun which has made much of the pipe that if the Keystone Pipeline is approved, over there at its site in an industrial area by the Little Rock airport, it has acres of pipe, and we’ve had our local congressman, a Republican named Tim Griffin who had served in the Bush White House and was somewhat of a protégé to Karl Rove, it’s been one of his key issues over the last year or two arguing that the Keystone Pipeline needs to be approved and that it will bring jobs to Arkansas. … [condensed for length] … But as word got out about this, and it took a little bit of time because it initially seemed pretty small, but by Saturday afternoon [03/30] it was already getting national attention as it became clear, and especially as the photos got out of yards with huge pools of oil sitting in them, or you saw big puddles on the roadways looking like a puddle of rain. But once those kind of images got out there and were spread, then opponents of the Keystone Pipeline began to discuss this and that – perhaps I don’t know, I can’t say for sure if that was a factor in this, but it seemed the longer the story progressed that it’s when Exxon Mobil became more apprehensive toward the media. Clearly whenever you try to exclude the media from an area, that intensifies the response and that’s when media starts demanding access. … [condensed for length] … So I think that’s why today [04/07] you finally had Exxon Mobil invite the media in and again kind of take the tone of, “Well, we’re here to show you how much progress is being made and we’re going to do whatever it takes to clean it up.”
But I can’t say for sure. No one from Exxon Mobil has directly referenced the Keystone Pipeline. Nothing like that in any of the time there’s been confrontations with the media.
Stephen Malagodi: How much did you and your fellow journalists have to come up to speed about the contents of the pipeline. Initial reports that I saw, the reporters were all referring to it as oil. I guess technically it’s not oil, it’s dilbit. So did you change your wording from oil to dilbit? Do you use those words interchangeably? How do you handle that?
Michael Hibblen: It’s a hard call to make, and I am certainly not a scientist, and I’m going with what I hear. But that’s – it’s part of the problem with reporters covering something like this. You don’t know. I’ve stopped calling it so much of an oil. Is it tar sands? I mean, it varies. A lot of the times I’ll quite honestly let people… I’ll let the cuts in my story do the wording if there’s something I’m not clear on. But clearly yes it is, this heavier raw product. But it goes back to reporters, you were somewhat limited, especially when you’re on deadline and in our case we’re a small staff and we’re not trained scientists necessarily, and so initially we take their word for it. You want to be skeptical. Any good reporter should be skeptical. But a lot of times you use what’s told to you, especially when it comes by people outside of Exxon, you know, putting a lot of faith in the local officials like the county judge, and you do the best you can as a reporter, but obviously there are other people with deeper levels of expertise, and the more we learned about the content, yes, we stopped so much calling it an oil spill, even though that’s still what everyone seems to know it as.
Stephen Malagodi: Have any of the affected residents been willing to talk to you? Have you talked to any of them, or has there been any effort to discourage them from talking to you about what’s happened?
Michael Hibblen: I don’t think there’s been any effort to discourage people. I do know that we had – there was one reporter who wanted to cover – I’m sorry, it wasn’t a reporter, it was a local representative of the Sierra Club. … [condensed for length] … a guy named Glenn Hooks who is very active around here, and he talked about being at a meeting, I believe it was Thursday night [04/04], where it was with Exxon Mobil and with residents in the affected area, and he had to put up a real fight to get into this meeting. Exxon Mobil said, “You’re not one of the residents, you’re not invited into this.” But he told me he argued and fought enough that he was allowed in. Whereas he was critical of the media, we weren’t able to cover it, anyone here from my station, but other media were outside, and when they were turned away they didn’t fight it very hard. They waited round outside and then talked with residents afterward. So it’s a matter of the press, what kind of a fight are they willing to put up to get access to certain areas. There was a meeting yesterday [04/06], a community meeting among residents in the area. We did have a reporter go to that, and he talked with a lot of upset residents. But there was no one representing Exxon Mobil at that. Still, that one, it was more of a community townhall-type meeting where just anyone … [condensed for length] … was able to go to. But again, that was, there was no one from Exxon Mobil there to speak with those people. There were some local officials and some of the people locally who are working with Exxon Mobil in this, but it’s still to a degree you have to put up a bit of a fight to get access to these, to the people and to get into the areas impacted. And again, you know, they let us in today [04/07], but it’s nine days after the fact, so what’s been going on… and that’s where red flags come up.
Stephen Malagodi: In all of these cases where a private or a semi-private company is involved in civil emergencies, like Fukushima or the Exxon Valdez, or particularly the BP Macondo Gulf explosion, initial information always seems to be tightly controlled by the private company rather than by civil authorities. I suppose there’s logistical reasons for that, but it also makes for obvious conflicts of interest. Going forward, as a journalist, do you think there’s anything that news organizations can do, such as trying to adopt guidelines as to who’s a valid authority on factual matters for the purposes of journalistic accuracy so you don’t perhaps find yourself always having to go back with corrections when you learn new facts later, that you originally reported that were company-sourced rather than being, you know, vetted through civil authority experts?
Michael Hibblen: A lot of times, especially, you know, when you’re not used to a particular kind of emergency, in this case this may be the only spill like this that I cover in my whole career. You learn from these kinds of experiences and the various kinds of stories I’ve covered over the years, you think, well, you know, I wish I’d handled it differently, but you put a lot of faith in local officials; in our case, the county judge and the state agencies that were involved. But in a lot of cases, they do not have a lot of expertise. They may be relying in large part on what’s coming from companies. … [condensed for length] … But in general, news agencies, you always want to be skeptical and a lot of times, especially if it’s not something you have a lot of expertise about, you know, yes, it is good to reach out to try to find people who are outside independent experts and that’s what we and others have tried to do, and you learn as you’re going forward. But I think it really just comes down to news agencies, and always you have to be skeptical of what you’re told. … [condensed for length] … If you aren’t an expert or don’t have complete confidence in it, you need to reach out to people and not just environmental groups, not just the Sierra Club, because their people clearly have an opinion on this, but reach out to scientists or other people who are independent and perhaps can give you a better analysis of it, but a lot of times people like that, if they’re not on the scene or involved, then they may not be able to, if it’s just they’re going with what’s reported in the media, and the media’s coming from official sources, then there’s, it’s very limited.
Stephen Malagodi: Finally, Michael, social media has been very active, been very involved in this whole episode, and I’m going to put you on the spot a little bit. I hope you don’t think it’s in a bad way.
Michael Hibblen: (laughs) Sure.
Stephen Malagodi: But, today, and we’re speaking on Sunday afternoon, the 7th, you posted on your Facebook timeline a series of pictures that I assume you took today. You introduced the photos this way, and I quote: “Reporters were given their first chance since shortly after the oil pipeline ruptured to view the cleanup in Mayflower, Arkansas. KUAR’s Michael Hibblen was among them and took these photos during the tour.”
And then we look at your photos, there are 19 photos, and it’s workers and it’s lawns and there’s some workers there in yellow suits and things are kind of green and brown, and it doesn’t look too awful bad. At almost the same time on my computer screen, these two timeline entries were practically adjacent, almost right on top of one another, this entry from Tar Sands Blockade. These entries were about 15 minutes apart. Tar Sands Blockade introduces their pictures this way, and I quote: “This is what Exxon tried to keep the media from seeing. They filled this wetland with tar sands bitumen. Just a few hundred feet from the Bell Slough Wildlife Management Area. Watch our videos and documentary. Read more about it here.” And you follow the link to their Flickr account, and there are these horrible pictures from the Bell Slough Wildlife Area where they’ve evidently moved, pumped or power washed the oil sands into this slough, and the pictures are horrible, of, you know, some dead muskrats and a worker carrying some other kind of dead animal, and oil everywhere.
Michael Hibblen: Mmhmm.
Stephen Malagodi: So, my question is, doesn’t that put you as a professional journalist in a really bad position? Through no fault of your own you’ve been prevented from accessing, from reporting this story in a way that would be accepted by most folks, as you are representative of a legitimate news organization and you have no axe to grind. If it was just between your reporting and Tar Sands Blockade, who have an obvious interest in this, I would go with your reporting. But since I know, and it’s kind of like clear from the beginning that you’ve been prevented by this company from doing the reporting that you think should have been done, doesn’t that put you as a professional journalist in a really bad place, because of the social media? You wind up with this situation where in your reports, you call it a tour, right?, and the Tar Sands Blockade people said, “We snuck into this area and took these pictures.” So I mean, as a professional journalist, it must be very difficult.
Michael Hibblen: [Long pause] Yes. It is, it is difficult, and unfortunately a key part of it too is just the fact that we’re a small news organization and you have to unfortunately your wait, you know, in this case, we had to wait nine days and we never snuck into any areas, anything of that sort, reaching out through official channels to try and get information. But it did take nine days, and that’s a key factor in what I’m posting as. But, yes, unfortunately for reporters, you are limited, but the great thing about social media is you do have outside organizations that in a way can get information out just as effectively if not more so to people by, in this case, sneaking into areas where things are happening. And it is one of the limitations of mainstream media is news organizations continually are getting smaller. In our case, as an NPR station, we have a small staff of people and haven’t been able to spend as much time as we’d like out there at the site, and in terms of actually getting in to see the area, at least here around the homes in the area where the spill actually, where this came out of the ground, you’re waiting for official channels for that. It helped when we saw overhead shots, because then, as said, and that was Wednesday, and some groups – I don’t know if the one you mentioned did, but you’ve had other people who have gone overhead, but it’s a little disappointing when Exxon Mobil complains and then the No Fly Zone is issued. You have limited resources, unfortunately, in most news organizations and you do the best you can with what you’re able to do. But it is good that we can see, and that’s part of what kept, as this story progressed, we see photos coming out from outside sources and that’s when you realize that many things aren’t exactly what’s being channeled to you through official channels. And that’s how the media has continued, at least mainstream media, to know that there is more to this and we shouldn’t just stop reporting on it, but, again, yeah, I wasn’t able to get into other places. These are photos and this is pretty much the representation that was made to me and other news organizations here nine days after the fact.
Stephen Malagodi: Is there any other aspect of reporting on this that you’d like to share, or maybe some things that you’ve learned or has somehow changed the way you approach your work?
Michael Hibblen: Well, you always know, I mean, there are probably no more powerful companies than oil companies, just because of the amount of money, and that clearly influences a lot of people, including local officials, in ways that you may not even realize. I mentioned our Attorney General. He … [condensed for length] … was running for governor, but … [condensed] …, ended up dropping out of the race after attention came to this relationship he was involved in, and quite honestly he is the only local official who has clearly, as I said earlier, you know, gotten his feathers ruffled over this, kind of taken a critical tone with Exxon Mobil and has said, “I have my own investigators here and we’re going to look into this, decide how this should be handled.” He’s really the only major public official who has been critical or in any way questioned Exxon Mobil’s account of this. And you do wonder when you see others kind of going along with Exxon Mobil, you do wonder, well, what ways do they have influence? In this case, I think, perhaps [Faulkner] county is, … Exxon Mobil’s doing the cleanup and they want to have this cleaned up, and as long as Exxon Mobil seems like they’re doing the right thing, then they’re letting them essentially run the show but hopefully with others providing oversight. But clearly the question goes to who is calling the shots here, and if the Attorney General had not quit his campaign for governor, I might be suspicious and just think he’s doing this to try to, you know, to kind of play up, make it look like he’s taking a firm stand for the people of Arkansas, might think he was just showboating for the cameras, but he has been the only person who has taken a defiant tone toward Exxon Mobil, and it’s been good to see at least one person, and hopefully not doing it with political motivations, because pretty much everyone else has just kind of stepped back. I think just so many people are out of their element, not knowing necessarily what’s going on. So I think it’s just wondering how is Exxon Mobil controlling the situation? You ask people questions and I’m still going through my interviews that I got today, but just wondering to what degree are they calling the shots, and having a situation like this, you learn a lot from it, but there’s only, you’re still somewhat limited in what you can do. So I’m confident that the level of investigation that’s being invested into this by the Attorney General’s office will hopefully be good for the state of Arkansas. We’ve already got the one federal lawsuit that has been filed. I believe it’s one of the homeowners who filed Friday.
Stephen Malagodi: There’s a class action lawsuit.
Michael Hibblen: Okay, last I heard it was just one person. There’s going to be a lot more legal action coming from this, and obviously Exxon Mobil is, they, they know what they’re doing, they know the best ways to control the situation. But there’s… perhaps the Attorney General’s office taking action, residents taking action, a lot of people. One of the homeowners I spoke with today with a young child, you know, not sure whether or not she wants to stay there, wondering what the long-term health impact for her and her family will be, and unfortunately I don’t know. It’s still up for debate. Exxon says that they’re replacing everything that the oil has touched, the tar sands. It’s just, when you’re dealing with an entity this powerful, this kind of money, you don’t always know, and you’re relying on other people for information and you have to be skeptical about it, but going forward we’ll see. They know there’s a lot of attention being paid to this, the company does, and perhaps they were trying to control the message, what got out, when they kicked the media out so early on Wednesday, perhaps not wanting to see whatever the Attorney General saw … [condensed for length] …, and you’re just hoping that this is being handled in the right way on behalf of people who live in the area, hoping that this doesn’t reach… already there are water officials who are… apparently this pipeline goes near Lake Maumelle, which is the major source of drinking water in central Arkansas, or Lake Conway, which is a major recreational area and lake, a major place a lot of people go. You hope that this doesn’t impact something like that, and you hope that local officials and in particular our Attorney General really does the proper thing in investigating and looking into how this is being handled, because obviously he has more resources than the local media has since he has the, you know, staff and resources, not as much as maybe the federal government, and the federal government obviously watching this, but you hope that there is the proper amount of investigation being done on behalf of people who live in the area or perhaps live in areas where pipelines go, and obviously there are way more pipelines than people realize cutting all across the country.
Stephen Malagodi: Michael Hibblen, news director at KUAR in Little Rock, Arkansas. Thank you very much, Michael.
Michael Hibblen: All right. Thanks, Steve.
Like it? Tip it! http://smalagodi.tip.me