Arkansas and federal officials filed a lawsuit against Exxon Mobil Corp. on Thursday for allegedly violating pollution laws following the March rupture of an oil pipeline in the state.
The suit, filed in federal court in Arkansas on Thursday, alleges that the March 29 rupture of the Pegasus pipeline near Mayflower, Ark., led to violations of the Arkansas Water and Air Pollution Control Act, the state Hazardous Waste Management Act and the federal Clean Water Act. The suit also accuses the company of operating a storage facility for the recovered oil without a permit.
The pipeline ruptured next to a residential subdivision, spilling an estimated 5,000 barrels of Canadian crude through yards and streets into a small creek, wetlands and a nearby recreational lake. Twenty-two homes were evacuated.
The alleged state law violations are subject to civil fines ranging from $10,000 to $25,000 per day, while the federal Clean Water Act violations carry fines up to $4,300 per barrel of oil spilled.
"This spill disrupted lives and damaged our environment," Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said in a statement. "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."
A spokesman for Exxon said the company hadn't seen the complaint and didn't have a comment.
Some nearby residents have separately sued the company, complaining of health concerns and economic losses. Exxon has asked a judge to dismiss that suit.
So far, Exxon has paid for the cleanup, and also has paid to house residents in area hotels. It also has offered to compensate homeowners for lost real-estate values, including making offers to buy homes at prespill prices.
The cause of the rupture is unclear, but it occurred in a section of pipe that was more than 60 years old and had a type of weld that has been known to fail more frequently. One pipeline safety expert sold The Wall Street Journal previously that the rupture appears to be on just such a seam.
Earlier this week, federal officials granted Exxon a second time extension to test the ruptured section of pipeline to determine the accident's cause.
Initially, the company was required to provide an analysis of the pipe by May 17, but it was later extended to June 7. Exxon and federal regulators received a draft of that report on time, but Exxon asked for another four weeks for further testing.
Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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