- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 10, 2016

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas officials on Wednesday hailed the opening of a $200 million, 210-mile pipeline that will transport gasoline, diesel and jet fuel into the state, saying it will boost energy availability and help economic development efforts.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson joined other top elected officials to mark the opening of the Magellan Midstream Partners pipeline system, which runs from Fort Smith to Little Rock. The pipeline, which has a capacity of 75,000 barrels a day, became operational on July 5 and is connected to refineries in Oklahoma, Kansas and the Gulf Coast.

“It increases the reliability, the affordability, of the supply of energy and gas to central Arkansas,” Hutchinson said at an event in North Little Rock. “That’s important to us and it’s important to me because I can’t go out and recruit industry to this state if they say, ‘Well, you have a glitch. You don’t have a consistent supply.’”

The pipeline came online more than three years after the Pegasus pipeline leak that spilled roughly 3,190 barrels of oil near Mayflower and Lake Conway about 20 miles north of Little Rock. Federal regulators last year announced they were assessing a $2.6 million civil penalty against ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. for the March 2013 spill. Under a separate agreement, ExxonMobil agreed to pay $3.19 million to the federal government and nearly $1.9 million in fines, fees and other payments to Arkansas.

Magellan President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Mears said the pipeline system has several safety features in place to ensure similar leaks don’t happen, including the use of devices and real-time monitoring to watch for any corrosion, leaks or other defects. Mears said the company initially planned to construct 250 miles of new pipeline, but was able to use 160 miles of existing pipeline for the system.

“Obviously, safety is of paramount importance to the pipeline industry,” Mears said. “The new construction on this pipeline met all the standards obviously, but we take it to the next level.”

Mears said the company plans to begin using the pipeline to provide jet fuel for the Little Rock Air Force Base and the Little Rock airport next year. The company has also signed an agreement to connect the system to a pipeline going into West Memphis.

Other elected officials at Wednesday’s ceremony included U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton, U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman and Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin.


Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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