The U.S. Justice Department and the State of Arkansas have filed a joint lawsuit against oil giant ExxonMobil for violations to state and federal pollution laws involving its oil spill that flooded a community with highly toxic Canadian tar sands oil.
ExxonMobil’s 70-year-old Pegasus pipeline ruptured in the residential neighborhood of Mayflower on March 29, 2013, releasing about 5,000 barrels of dense, sticky diluted bitumen oil made from Canadian tar sands treated with dozens of chemical additives.
The 850-mile pipeline, which moves about 95,000 barrels of tar sands oil daily from Patoka, Illinois, to Nederland, Texas, ran about two feet underground at the location of the breach. According to the complaint, “The oil spilled directly into the neighborhood and then into nearby waterways, including a creek, wetlands, and Lake Conway. Residents were forced to evacuate their homes due to the hazardous conditions in the neighborhood resulting from the spill.”
“The oil has contaminated land and waterways and impacted human health and welfare, wildlife, and habitat,” the lawsuit alleges. Cleanup efforts are ongoing and several of the area residents remain displaced.
The U.S. seeks civil penalties under the federal Clean Water Act for the oil spill on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The state of Arkansas seeks civil penalties against ExxonMobil for violating the Arkansas Hazardous Waste Management Act and the Arkansas Water and Air Pollution Control Act on behalf of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ). The state also seeks a judgment on ExxonMobil’s liability for payment of removal costs and damages related to the spill pursuant to the federal Oil Pollution Act.