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Exxon Mobil denies marking as thousands of pages on pipe repairs confidential

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LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Exxon Mobil has denied claims from plaintiffs in an oil spill lawsuit that it made all evidence about the maintenance and repair of the Pegasus pipeline in Mayflower secret.

Last month, the plaintiffs in the class-action suit said Exxon Mobil declared 872,000 pages of documents about the pipeline confidential. They asked a federal judge to order the company to prove why that information needed to kept from the public, arguing that the company was seeking "unprecedented judicial censorship of a dangerous and hazardous situation."

The Pegasus pipeline ruptured last March in Mayflower, spilling thousands of gallons of oil into the area. The oil giant has blamed the rupture on manufacturing defects.

Exxon Mobil filed a response in court Thursday, saying it was untrue that it marked every single page given to plaintiffs as confidential, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1zoEzsU ) reported.

The company has "produced approximately 800,000 pages to the plaintiffs, which represent approximately 213,000 documents. Of the 213,000 documents produced, over 95,000 were not designated 'Confidential,'" the company said in its response. It didn't say how many pages it had labeled confidential.

PHOTO: FILE - In this Monday, April 1, 2013 file photo, oil covers the ground around a slide in Mayflower, Ark., days after a pipeline ruptured and spewed oil over lawns and roadways. The Pegasus pipeline ruptured last March in Mayflower, spilling thousands of gallons of oil into the area. Exxon Mobil is denying claims from plaintiffs in an oil spill lawsuit that it made all information about the maintenance and repair of an oil pipeline secret. The oil giant has blamed the rupture on manufacturing defects. (AP Photo/Jeannie Nuss, File)
FILE - In this Monday, April 1, 2013 file photo, oil covers the ground around a slide in Mayflower, Ark., days after a pipeline ruptured and spewed oil over lawns and roadways. The Pegasus pipeline ruptured last March in Mayflower, spilling thousands of gallons of oil into the area. Exxon Mobil is denying claims from plaintiffs in an oil spill lawsuit that it made all information about the maintenance and repair of an oil pipeline secret. The oil giant has blamed the rupture on manufacturing defects. (AP Photo/Jeannie Nuss, File)

Attorney Marcus Bozeman for the plaintiffs, said, "We had a team looking through the documents, and every document our team has seen has been marked confidential. ... If there are ones in there that are not marked confidential ... we have not seen them.

"It's telling that they haven't revealed the number of pages that are not designated confidential," he added.

One document could be one page and another 50 pages, Bozeman said.

In August, a U.S. district judge granted class-action status in the lawsuit, allowing Arnez and Charletha Harper, of Mayflower, to represent people who currently own property that's subject to an easement for and physically crossed by the Pegasus pipeline. They are seeking the cancellation of those easements and removal or replacement of the pipeline.

The 850-mile-long line runs from Texas to Illinois and was closed shortly after the oil spill. A 212-mile segment of the pipeline in Texas has been restarted.


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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