U.S. District Judge James Moody has scheduled the trial date for the joint complaint brought by the state of Arkansas and the U.S. government against ExxonMobil Pipeline Company and Mobil Pipeline Company. A pre-trial conference will happen Feb. 13, 2014, with the trial scheduled to begin the following day.
The lawsuit seeks civil penalties for the March 29 Pegasus pipeline oil spill in Mayflower. Exxon’s liability for the spilled oil is clear. At issue will be whether or not the state and feds can prove that the spill happened as a result of Exxon’s negligence or willful misconduct. Federal penalties, as outlined in the Clean Water Act, range from $1,100 per barrel spilled or $4,300 per barrel if negligence or willful misconduct can be proved. Exxon estimates 5,000 barrels were spilled, or 210,000 gallons, a number the EPA has so far accepted. So we’re talking about $5.5 million versus $21.5 million, plus other potential penalties.
Earlier this month, Exxon filed an extension to submit a work plan to federal regulators for how it will verify the integrity of the Pegasus pipeline. A spokesman for Exxon said the extension means the company couldn’t conceivably restart the line before January 2014. And likely later. Experts estimate the closure of the Pegasus is costing Exxon as much as $450,000 per day, Elizabeth Douglass, with our partner news organization InsideClimate News, reports.