Arkansas residents sue ExxonMobil for Pegasus rupture, oil spill

31 May 2013 00:17  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--A group of at least 85 Arkansas residents are suing US-based energy giant ExxonMobil for damages from the 29 March Pegasus pipeline rupture and oil spill that forced the evacuation of 22 homes in Mayflower, a representing attorney said on Thursday.

Filed in Faulkner County, the lawsuit demands a trial by jury to determine compensatory damages to real and personal property, economic and business loss, diminution in property value, physical injuries and mental suffering, as well as other expenses, said Shawn Daniels, an attorney with Hare Wynn Newell & Newton.

The residents are also seeking punitive damages, injunctive relief “enjoining the ExxonMobil defendants from pumping crude oil sands through the Pegasus pipeline”, plaintiffs cost and expenses, attorney fees and any further relief that the court deems just and appropriate.

The lawsuit does not provide a specific sum but seeks “an amount in excess of the amount required for federal court jurisdiction in diversity of citizenship cases”.

“It’ll be a while before they’ll know the full extent of what the damages will be,” Daniels said. “Obviously, you can’t put them back where they were. Homes have been destroyed, and that’s got a stigma for years to come.”

He added: “A lot of people have suffered physical injuries from it and are worried about their future there. For a lot of people that were retirees, these were their dream homes. Their lives have been disrupted, and it’s been a pretty traumatic event for them.”

Daniels emphasised that the Pegasus was a more than 60-year-old pipeline.

“In the last few years, ExxonMobil started to transport this tar sand, which is much more toxic and a more dangerous product than typical crude oil,” he said. “ExxonMobil increased the pressure and reversed the flow of the product.”

He added: “That could be important for future areas near pipelines that, as a whole, if you’re going to run more toxic products at increased pressure, maybe it’s not a safe thing to do.”

ExxonMobil declined to comment on the lawsuit.

“We are aware of the lawsuit but have not had a chance to review yet,” company spokesman Aaron Stryk said on Thursday.

The Mayflower incident resulted in about 5,000 bbl of oil spilled.

The Arkansas Attorney General’s Office is also probing the incident, while two residents have filed a class-action lawsuit against the energy giant, seeking more than $5m (€3.85m) in damages.

In a separate incident about a month later, the Pegasus pipeline leaked about 1 bbl of oil in Missouri.

($1 = €0.77)

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By: Tracy Dang
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