Exxon Settles AR Pipeline Leak Case

Wednesday, June 21, 2017 @ 11:06 AM gHale

A lawsuit brought on behalf of almost 150 Mayflower residents in Arkansas affected by a 2013 ExxonMobil pipeline rupture has been settled.

Attorneys with three law firms representing the residents confirmed they settled the suit with ExxonMobil, the pipeline operator.

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The attorneys cited a confidentiality agreement with the company that bars them from disclosing the dollar amount for the settlement or on what date it was reached.

The law firm Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton first said it had arrived at a settlement with Exxon and its subsidiaries. Hare Wynn Attorney Shawn Daniels said the settlement was “favorable.”

The Hare Wynn law firm represented 64 families in the lawsuit. Daniels said certain plaintiffs had the option to sell their homes to ExxonMobil. He said fewer than half of the plaintiffs his firm represented sold their homes.  

Attorneys from the Little Rock-based McMath Woods law firm and Conway-based Mickel & Chapman law firm also represented clients in the case. Mickel & Chapman worked in conjunction with attorneys from the Asheville, North Carolina-based Davis & Whitlock law firm.

Attorney Tom Mickel of Mickel & Chapman acknowledged the deal in an emailed statement.

Attorney Sam Ledbetter of the McMath Woods firm also confirmed in an email the firm’s clients were involved in the settlement.

ExxonMobil previously arrived at a $5.07 million settlement with federal and state authorities in 2015.

A 20-foot long welding seam on the company’s Pegasus Pipeline burst on March 29, 2013.

Estimates of the amount of oil released in the Good Friday rupture range from 3,000 to 10,000 barrels. The Wabasca Heavy crude oil spilled into the yards, streets and drainage ditches along a Mayflower subdivision and flowed into nearby wetlands, eventually entering a cove of Lake Conway, where booms and barriers were set up to prevent oil from reaching the rest of the reservoir.

Daniels said the plaintiffs’ main complaint centered on the alleged mismanagement of the pipeline, constructed in the late 1940’s to transport Texas crude oil to Illinois refineries on an 850-mile course that also traverses Arkansas and Missouri.

Over the pipeline’s lifespan, Canadian Tar Sands crude oil came into high demand and Exxon used the pipeline to carry it. The pipeline operator also reversed the direction of the flow and increased the pressure.

According to the Associated Press, government attorneys said the rupture led to about $57 million in damage in the subdivision and surrounding areas.

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