Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel says more legal action will be coming from the state concerning the oil spill in Mayflower.
Monday McDaniel and Congressman Tim Griffin were guests on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show discussing pipeline safety. You can listen to the full hour at this link. McDaniel's segment begins about 13 minutes into the program. Griffin calls in toward the end of the show.
The state and federal government have already filed a joint lawsuit seeking penalties from ExxonMobil for violating clean water and clean air laws for the rupture of the Pegasus pipeline, which spilled hundreds of thousands of gallons of raw crude in March.
McDaniel also noted lawsuits by homeowners, saying "there's a lot of litigation from multiple fronts. Furthermore, it doesn't include natural resource damages, which are mainly vested with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission which owns Lake Conway, which was the lake that received the oil as it drained downhill, so those natural resource damages will also be brought in its own action at some future point."
McDaniel called ExxonMobil’s handling of the spill “coldhearted,” and expressed his disappointment that the company is cutting off payments on September 12th for residents displaced by the spill.
An independent lab inspected the damaged section of pipe and ExxonMobil says it concluded that original manufacturing defects were to blame.
McDaniel expressed concerns if the Pegasus pipeline, which runs from Illinois to Texas, is restarted.
"This very pipeline, I assume 900 miles of it came from the same factory and would have at least the risk of the same defects," McDaniel said. "It travels under the Arkansas River, it travels under Lake Maumelle, which is the watershed for the 400,000 people, the drinking water supply here in Little Rock, and I think it crosses 27 other watersheds as it crosses the state of Arkansas, not counting what its done elsewhere," McDaniel said.
Rep. Griffin has joined with those calling for the pipeline to be moved out of the Lake Maumelle Watershed. He's also optimistic it could be replaced with a new, modern pipeline.
"One of Exxon's own executives said this past week that they may not restart this pipeline ever, that it would in fact be replaced. Exxon has said that themselves and I'm going to continue that conversation with them," Griffin said.
But Andrew Black, president and CEO of the Association of Oil Pipe Lines, said that's not necessary.
"A rule of thumb on building a new pipeline is $2.5 to $3 million per mile; not a practical suggestion. As I understand it, in Arkansas that would be perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars when it's not necessary to protect Lake Maumelle and everyone else," Black said. "The company needs to do the inspections and the repairs necessary to know that they can operate safely and the federal regulator will not let it open until they're convinced as well."
ExxonMobil said no one from the company was available go on the Diane Rehm Show, but issued a statement saying, "We truly regret this spill that continues to impact the community and appreciate everyone's continued patience. We will remain here until the job is done and will work to restore your community as quickly and safely as possible."