Posted 11/6/2013 04:45 pm
Updated 4 months ago
LITTLE ROCK - A federal agency is proposing more than $2.6 million in civil penalties against ExxonMobil after one of the company's pipelines ruptured and spilled thousands of barrels of oil in central Arkansas, according to a document released Wednesday.
The proposed civil penalties come along with what the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration says are nine probable violations of pipeline safety regulations, including allegations that ExxonMobil Pipeline Company failed to follow certain procedures.
ExxonMobil's Pegasus pipeline ruptured in Mayflower on March 29, spilling thousands of barrels of oil in the community about 30 miles northwest of Little Rock.
The company said Wednesday that it's disappointed with PHMSA's decision to issue a notice of probable violations, or NOPV.
"Regarding next steps, we are still reviewing the NOPV and have not yet determined our future course of action," ExxonMobil said in a statement provided by spokesman Aaron Stryk. "However, it does appear that PHMSA's analysis is flawed and the agency has made some fundamental errors."
Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, who represents the central Arkansas congressional district where the oil spilled, said the federal agency's report raises more questions about ExxonMobil's operation of the Pegasus pipeline.
"When it comes to protecting our communities, our environment and our drinking water, meeting the minimum requirements of the law should be a given, and going the extra mile to ensure pipeline safety is the right thing to do," Griffin said in a statement.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, the lone Democrat in Arkansas' congressional delegation, commended PHMSA for its action on Wednesday.
"The fight's not over, but this is a positive step forward as we work to make the Mayflower community whole again," Pryor said in a statement.
The probable violations in PHMSA's report include a number of procedural issues, including an allegation that Exxon failed to follow its operations and maintenance procedures "by selectively using results of its Threat Identification and Risk Assessment Manual (TIARA) process in 2011 which resulted in the failure to properly characterize the risk of a release to the Lake Maumelle Watershed" and other areas in part of the pipeline.
ExxonMobil has said the March 29 spill didn't affect Mayflower's drinking water supply, which comes from a lake about 65 miles away and is managed by a different supplier.
But that hasn't ended concerns about drinking water in the region, as the pipeline runs through part of the Lake Maumelle watershed, which drains into the main drinking water supply for hundreds of thousands of people.
To that end, Griffin said he's more concerned than ever after visiting the Lake Maumelle watershed this week and seeing "where the pipeline is exposed and potentially vulnerable."
"I will continue to urge ExxonMobil to relocate the pipeline away from the watershed and work with everyone involved to keep the drinking water for over 400,000 Arkansans safe," Griffin said.
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