LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Two subsidiaries of Exxon Mobil must pay almost $5 million in penalties for state and federal violations involving the 2013 Mayflower oil spill in central Arkansas, according to a consent decree filed in federal court Wednesday.
The decree brokered between the U.S. Department of Justice, the Arkansas attorney general's office and the subsidiaries — ExxonMobil Pipeline Company and Mobil Pipe Line Company — will not become final until after 30 days of public comment.
Assistant Attorney General John Cruden said the company did not admit liability as part of the agreement.
Exxon Mobil spokesman Christian Flatham said the settlement lowered the number of barrels of oil estimated to have leaked into a cove of Conway Lake in Mayflower on Good Friday in March 2013 from 5,000 barrels to 3,190 barrels.
"We regret that this incident occurred and apologize for the disruption and inconvenience that it caused," he said in an emailed statement. "Exxon Mobil launched a rapid and effective response and worked closely with the U.S. EPA and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to ensure cleanup and restoration took place as quickly as possible."
It was originally estimated that the Pegasus pipeline had spilled up to 210,000 gallons of heavy crude oil into Mayflower's Northwoods subdivision, drainage ditches and the cove when a manufacturing defect in the pipe's seam left a 22-foot rupture in the pipeline.
The revised number of barrels, which Attorney General Leslie Rutledge estimated was close to 134,000 gallons of oil, was used to determine the penalties paid for the violations of the federal Clean Water Act and state environmental laws.
Exxon Mobile will pay about $3.2 million in federal civil penalties in addition to addressing pipeline safety issues and oil-response capacity, plus $1 million in state civil penalties, $600,000 for a project to improve water quality at Lake Conway and $280,000 for the state's legal costs. It also must establish three caches of spill response equipment along the pipeline, including a location in Faulkner County.
A 650-mile portion of the pipeline has been closed since the Mayflower spill, and about 211 miles of the pipeline in Texas has resumed service.
The agreement did not address damages for residents who were evacuated from the subdivision, some of whom sold their homes to Exxon or its subsidiaries. A federal case filed by a group of residents is pending.
Other civil claims are still pending in Faulkner County Circuit Court. A written release from attorney Ross Noland, who represents some of the residents, said a five-week trial for one of the complaints is scheduled in October.
"Mayflower residents in civil suits seek compensation for exposure, disruption of their lives and reduction in the value of their property caused by the Pegasus Pipeline rupture," he said.
The environmental damage from the pipeline break is still being assessed by state officials. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has hired a consultant to assess damage to Lake Conway, habitat, animals and drainage systems, according to assistant deputy director Rick Chastain.
Chastain said the commission is a few months from finishing the assessment and beginning negotiations with Exxon Mobil to reach a settlement for the cost of environmental damage. If a settlement can't be reached, he said the state would then file a legal action.