LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A subsidiary of Exxon Mobil is challenging the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s authority to order safety measures following the March 2013 rupture of the company’s Pegasus pipeline in central Arkansas.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported (http://bit.ly/2c20f8A ) Monday that Exxon Mobil Pipeline Co. also wants the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to overturn a $2.6 million fine that the company paid earlier this year.
The administration is to respond by Sept. 16.
Justice Department attorneys have said the company didn’t follow its own procedures when it assessed the safety of the Pegasus pipeline, which was constructed in 1947-48.
When the pipeline cracked, heavy crude oil spilled into a subdivision of Mayflower, drainage ditches and a Lake Conway cove. Government attorneys have said the accident caused more than $57 million in property damage.
The safety agency’s compliance-order requirement directs the company to revise its seam-failure susceptibility process for all pre-1970 electric-resistance-welded pipe in all of the pipelines it operates.
Exxon Mobil has said it operates more than 1,000 miles of pipeline that is similar to the Pegasus and that is subject to the federal agency’s safety regulations. The company has said it’s being singled out with “extensive and costly” directives that don’t apply to its competitors, putting it at a competitive disadvantage.
“PHMSA found violations in this case only after a release occurred,” Exxon Mobil wrote. “Over the preceding decade, the Agency failed to raise any objection about (the company’s) engineering analyses that the Pegasus Pipeline was not susceptible to seam failure,” according to the court filling.
Even if the court finds the federal agency acted within its authority, the company said the civil penalty is too high.
“Any ‘related series of violations’ cannot exceed $1 million,” Exxon Mobil argued.
Oral arguments in the company’s appeal are scheduled during the week of Oct. 31.
Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com