InsideClimate News, winner of this year’s Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, is teaming up with theArkansas Times, an aggressive daily news site with a weekly print edition based in Little Rock, to get to the bottom of the ExxonMobil oil spill in Mayflower, Ark. Why? Because it’s a disaster in danger of being forgotten or ignored, even though it has irrevocably changed the lives of many people like you and me — and because this spill, like previous spills, should be part of the national debate about the future of energy and the impacts of carbon pollution.
The Mayflower spill occurred on March 29. As many as 400,000 gallons of tar sands oil spilled into a residential neighborhood, forcing the evacuation of 22 homes that remain empty today. Residents continue to complain of a variety of health effects. A pile of oil-soaked debris hasn’t been removed from the area, and oil saturating a cove still threatens Lake Conway, a popular fishing lake. Yet little information about the cause of the spill — or when the shuttered pipeline might be re-started — has been forthcoming from Exxon or federal authorities.
The Mayflower story has national implications. The Keystone XL pipeline would carry the same type of unconventional oil from Canada to Texas. But in this age of shrinking newsrooms, few media outlets have been covering this important story from a small town in Arkansas. The collaboration between Arkansas Times and InsideClimate News will allow this story to be told from both a local and national perspective, and fill a glaring gap in media coverage.