LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas' attorney general on Tuesday asked ExxonMobil to preserve records pending a state investigation into a crude oil spill that, while small, has generated broader questions about the safety of cross-country pipelines.
Clean-up crews have recovered about 12,000 barrels of crude oil and water since a leak on Friday soiled a neighborhood in Mayflower, about 25 miles northwest of Little Rock, and almost threatened nearby Lake Conway.
"There are many questions and concerns remaining as to the long-term impacts, environmental or otherwise, from this spill," Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel wrote to ExxonMobil executives Tuesday while launching a probe into the leak's cause and impact. The company said it will cooperate.
Investigators were still working to determine what caused the spill, which led authorities to evacuate nearly two dozen homes.
"It's obvious that the rupture was not the fault of the state and the state has been damaged in addition to the private property owners," McDaniel told reporters Tuesday.
The Arkansas spill comes days after a train carrying crude from Canada derailed last week in western Minnesota, leaking thousands of gallons of oil onto the frozen ground.
While the Minnesota spill appeared to be under control from an ecological standpoint, it stood to play a role in the politics surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport oil from tar sands in Canada to refineries in Texas.
Environmentalists have criticized the Keystone XL proposal, though a recent State Department report seemed to knock down one of their arguments by saying that when it comes to global warming, shipping the oil by pipeline would release less pollution than using rail.
Still, some environmentalists pointed to the recent Arkansas spill to highlight their concerns about the Keystone XL pipeline.
"It's not a question of whether pipelines leak. It's when," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.