Saturday, July 27, 2013

ExxonMobil ending housing assistance for Mayflower spill victims

From:  Arkansas Times 

 by Max Brantley 

READY TO OCCUPY? ExxonMobil is ending housing assistance payments to people routed from homes by its oil spill.
READY TO OCCUPY? ExxonMobil is ending
housing assistance payments to people
 routed from homes by its oil spill.
Sam Eifling, newly at work for us on our Mayflower oil spill project with Inside Climate News, is at work on a news story about ExxonMobil's notice to owners of property in the Mayflower subdivision soiled by the pipeline burst that the oil giant is cutting off temporary housing assistance Sept. 1 to displaced residents.
This is sooner than some had expected. Many do not want to move home. After Sept. 1, they must or pay their own money to live elsewhere.
I mention this before the article is complete because word is leaking out. U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, one of the pipeline industry's biggest advocates, is trying to get out in front of more bad news from Exxon by issuing a statement urging it to do right. He's angry about the latest, he said.
As someone who first praised Exxon's initial response, Griffin has become more consumer oriented in recent days, a position he hasn't adopted in the face of opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry the same kind of problematic Canadian tar sands across a senstive Nebraska aquifer. No word if Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, who recently proclaimed Mayflower in better condition than pre-spill, shares Griffin's indignation.
Though Griffin is no longer alibiing for ExxonMobil, his heightened interest hasn't produced transparency from Exxon on reasons behind the pipeline break; solicitous treatment of directly affected homeowners, or adequate treatment of people farther removed from the pipeline break who insist they and Lake Conway have been harmed as well.
More later from Sam Eifling. In the meanwhile: Griffin's prepared statement follows on the jump. He again mentions his legislation to give an income tax break to people who receive voluntary payments from Exxon. That legislation won't cover payments won by lawsuits. Cessation of housing assistance raises another point of contention that might have to be resolved by legal action since Exxon intends to end voluntary payments.

WASHINGTON — Congressman Tim Griffin (AR-02) issued the following statement after sending a letter to Gary Pruessing, president of the ExxonMobil Pipeline Company:

“It is my understanding that ExxonMobil informed displaced Mayflower residents whose homes have been cleared by the Unified Command that after September 1, 2013, ExxonMobil intends to cut off funding for their alternative housing. I am angered and deeply concerned that ExxonMobil would prematurely terminate housing assistance for these residents, forcing them to either move back into their homes or pay the full cost of alternative housing. In addition, weeks after I received highly technical raw data on these inspections, I have still not received a response from ExxonMobil to my request for a briefing on this raw data, which is indecipherable without technical assistance. In all of these matters, ExxonMobil should step up and fulfill its duty.”
A copy of the letter, which among other things requests that ExxonMobil continue to provide housing assistance to the affected residents through December 31, 2013, can be found here.
Since the March 29 oil spill, Rep. Griffin has toured the cleanup site several times (most recently last week), remained in constant contact with residents and representatives of the Unified Command, and called for relocating the Pegasus pipeline away from Lake Maumelle.
Last week, Griffin introduced H.R. 2724, which will prevent compensation provided to Mayflower residents from being taxable by classifying it as “a qualified disaster relief payment” under current law. This would protect the impacted families from facing thousands of dollars in additional taxes. [Only to the extent they received payment in excess of the cost value of their homes.] In a presidentially-declared disaster, such as those that occurred in Oklahoma and New Jersey, any benefits provided would automatically be tax-exempt.

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