State, Feds Seek Civil Penalties from ExxonMobil Over Mayflower Oil Spill

by Chuck Bartels, The Associated Press  on Thursday, Jun. 13, 2013 3:20 pm  

Workers examine a section of a damaged Exxon Mobil oil pipeline in Mayflower after it was removed from the ground April 15. (Photo by AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

NORTH LITTLE ROCK - State and federal authorities want a judge to find ExxonMobil broke the law when a pipeline failed at Mayflower and spilled an estimated 150,000 gallons of crude oil in a neighborhood and adjacent waterway, authorities announced Thursday.

Christopher Thyer, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, and state Attorney General Dustin McDaniel jointly filed a federal lawsuit seeking $45,000 per day for violations since the March 29 spill plus other penalties.

(More: Click to download a PDF of the complaint.)

An ExxonMobil spokesman said in an email that the company hadn't been served the lawsuit and had no specific comment.

"That said, we will continue to cooperate with all federal, state and local agencies," spokesman Aaron Stryk said.

Stryk said the company has recovered about 63,000 gallons of the spilled oil and the cleanup is continuing.

After the ExxonMobil Pipeline Co.'s Pegasus pipeline ruptured, 22 homes were evacuated and McDaniel said Thursday that those families still have not been able to return.

"Our investigations continue and there are still a number of outstanding issues that will be addressed, however this much is very clear: This oil spill disrupted lives. This oil spill harmed the environment and this oil spill was in violation of both state and federal law," McDaniel said.

McDaniel said the "future of many homeowners remains uncertain" and that the spill damaged aquatic life by causing levels of dissolved oxygen to drop.

"This spill has caused a significant and lasting impact upon our state's environment and Exxon, as the responsible party for the incident, should be penalized for those impacts," McDaniel said.

The company said sampling has shown that the spill was restricted to a cove within Lake Conway and that the oil did not reach the main body of the lake, a popular area for fishing and boating.

McDaniel said there is no distinction between the cove and the lake, though he credited Arkansas Game and Fish Commission crews for quickly using heavy equipment to seal off the spill area before the mess could drift.



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