ExxonMobil will pay $5 million to settle claims brought against it by the U.S. and Arkansas governments stemming from its March 2013 Pegasus Pipeline oil spill that swamped an Arkansas community with thousands of gallons of heavy Canadian oil.
Under the settlement agreement, ExxonMobil will pay $3.19 million to the U.S. in Clean Water Act penalties and $1 million in state civil penalties to Arkansas. The oil company will also devote $600,000 to a project geared toward improving water quality at Lake Conway, a reservoir affected by the spill, and pay the Arkansas Attorney General’s office $280,000 in legal fees.
The spill occurred March 29, 2013, when the 70-year-old Pegasus Pipeline that runs from Illinois to Texas ruptured in the Northwoods neighborhood of Mayflower, Ark., 25 miles north of Little Rock. The underground pipeline released about 3,190 barrels (134,000 gallons) of dense, highly toxic Canadian diluted bitumen oil (dilbit) processed from tar sands into the neighborhood.
The spill contaminated homes and yards, displacing many residents of the community for an extended period of time. It then worked its way into a nearby creek, wetlands, and a section of Lake Conway.
ExxonMobil has paid some spill-related costs before the settlement agreement was reached April 22, including reimbursing federal and state governments for expenses accrued in their response to the oil spill and complying with orders for corrective action issued by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).
According to the Justice Department, ExxonMobil must take corrective actions laid out in the settlement agreement before it can use the segment of pipeline that ruptured under Mayflower. Portions of the pipeline were closed when the spill occurred and remain out of service.
Additionally, under the agreement ExxonMobil must take further actions to prevent further spills from occurring and improve its oil-spill response capabilities by providing its first responders with better training. The corporation must also establish caches of spill-response equipment and supplies at three strategically chosen sites along the pipeline, including one near Mayflower.
“This settlement holds ExxonMobil accountable for this very serious oil spill and its disastrous impact on the Mayflower community and environment,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s division of Environment and Natural Resources. “This agreement is also an excellent example of federal and state cooperation that will benefit public health and the environment for years to come and most importantly prevent future disasters by requiring better pipeline safety and response measures.”