Mayflower Oil Spill: Attorney Notes Federal Fine for Exxon

Mayflower Oil SpillArkansas Mayflower Oil Spill attorneys note that in a letter dated November 6, 2013, the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) notified the ExxonMobil Pipeline Company that it had found nine probable violations of pipeline safety regulations and proposed $2.6 million in civil penalties.

This regulatory action is in addition to state and federal lawsuits currently pending against Exxon, including one on behalf of over fifty affected residents filed in May 2013 by the law firm of Hare Wynn Newell & Newton.

According to a news report from the Arkansas Times:

Among others, the regulators found the company had failed to properly consider the risk of seam failures in pipe made before 1970; didn’t meet 5-year assessment intervals; didn’t give adequate priority to potential for problems in “high consequence areas”; didn’t take prompt action on places identified as needing immediate attention; hadn’t updated risk assessments, and failed to follow operating procedures.

The cumulative penalty amount comes from differing assessments for each of the nine probable violations. The biggest, $783,000, related to the nearby Lake Maumelle water supply.

A copy of the letter from PHMSA to Exxon can be found here.   Despite the results of the federal’s agency’s investigation, as well as previous admissions from Exxon that the company was responsible for causing the spill, Exxon nevertheless apparently takes issue with the findings.  As reported by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette:

Exxon Mobil spokesman Aaron Stryk issued a statement in which the company said it was “disappointed” by the government’s notice of probable violations and said it was cooperating with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, often called PHMSA, in the accident investigation.

The company said it was still reviewing the notice and has “not yet determined our future course of action.”

“However, it does appear that PHMSA’s analysis is flawed and the agency has made some fundamental errors,” the statement said.

The Democrat Gazette article goes on to note a PHMSA finding that:

Exxon Mobil failed to follow its own operations and maintenance procedures “by selectively using results” of its Threat Identification and Risk Assessment Manual … process in 2011.” That action resulted in a “failure to properly characterize the risk of a release to the Lake Maumelle Watershed” and other high consequence areas in the segment of pipeline running from Conway to Foreman, the government said.

Richard Kuprewicz, who serves on the agency’s technical advisory committee and is advising Central Arkansas Water in relation to pipeline issues, was quoted as saying:

“The [federal] assertion is that they cherry-picked at the risks so that they didn’t have to” address some of the pipeline’s risks, Kuprewicz said. “This is a problem occurring … on numerous pipeline failures. … The risk assessments are not thorough enough.”

Further, referring to Exxon Mobil, he said, “To say you didn’t know about low frequency ERW [electric resistance welded] seam threats” in some pre-1970s pipe would not work. “You can’t claim you didn’t know this,” when the industry has been aware of such manufacturing problems for years. “You’ve got some serious problems with the integrity management folks, and you need to rectify them.”

In a subsequent report on the PHMSA findings, the Arkansas Times noted, “A reader did the math on the proposed $2.65 million fine of ExxonMobil for the tar sands spill in Mayflower. On last year’s profit of about $45 billion, he figures it’s about 31 minutes of Exxon’s time.”

If you have been affected by the Mayflower Oil Spill, it is not too late to pursue compensation against Exxon.  Johnson & Vines, PLLC is working with Hare Wynn Newell & Newton in representing individuals who have been affected by the Mayflower, Arkansas oil spill. For additional information, please call 501-372-1300.