Arkansas, Feds to sue Exxon over Mayflower spill

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 63 views 

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D) and U.S. Attorney Chris Thyer are filing a joint lawsuit against ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. and Mobil Pipeline Co. for violations of state and federal environmental laws related to the May 29 Pegasus pipeline rupture in Mayflower.

The complaint outlines six causes of action against the defendants related to the oil spill, which dumped heavy crude oil into waterways and a neighborhood near Lake Conway.

“This spill disrupted lives and damaged our environment,” McDaniel said. “It sullied our previously pristine water and our clean air. As the party responsible for this incident, Exxon is also responsible for the penalties imposed by the state for the damage to our environment and the company should foot the bill for the state’s clean-up costs.”

The lawsuit outlines potential civil penalties and damages Exxon could face related to violations of the Clean Water Act, the Arkansas Hazardous Waste Management Act, and the Arkansas Water and Air Pollution Control Act.

Those penalties could involve federal civil penalties of $1,100-$4,300 per barrel discharged depending on if Exxon is found guilty of negligence or willful misconduct.

It could also include state penalties of $25,000 per day for violations of hazardous waste laws; $10,000 per day for violations of water pollution laws; and $10,000 per day for violations of air pollution statutes.

The state and feds are also seeking an undisclosed amount of money for removal costs and damages to the environment and property. A total dollar amount on what the state and federal government could seek would be determined once more facts related to the case are decided, McDaniel said.

Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality director Teresa Marks said Exxon has been storing hazardous waste illegally at an XTO storage facility near Mayflower. She said the company did not have the proper permitting for the hazardous waste storage and was not compliant with her agency’s requests to meet code. Marks also indicated that there are unanswered questions about how Exxon planned to transport and dispose of the waste.

McDaniel said Exxon had been open to communication with the state on issues raised, but its response “has not been satisfactory.” He hoped the discovery process would shed more light on how much oil was discharged – which is still a mystery – and what the cause of the rupture was.

Thyer and McDaniel said they thought their offices as well as the state and government resources through ADEQ, EPA and other federal agencies would be sufficient to litigate. McDaniel did not rule out hiring outside counsel to assist, but said none was hired at this time.

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