PHMSA, Arkansas attorney general act after ExxonMobil pipeline leak

The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued a corrective action order on Apr. 2 preventing ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. (EMP) from restarting operations on a leaking Arkansas crude oil pipeline until satisfactory repairs have been made and immediate safety concerns have been addressed.

PHMSA issued the CAO hours after Arkansas Atty. Gen. Dustin McDaniel (D) opened an investigation into the Mar. 29 rupture of the ExxonMobil Corp. subsidiary’s Pegasus crude oil pipeline near the town of Mayflower. EMP immediately shut the line down and sent crews in to contain the spill (OGJ Online, Apr. 1, 2013).

Fifteen vacuum trucks and 33 storage tanks were at the leak site to clean up and temporarily store the spilled crude, EMP’s Mayflower Incident Unified Command Joint Information Center said in an Apr. 2 update.

“Approximately 12,000 bbl of water and oil were recovered in the first several days, representing most of the free standing oil,” it said. About 330 EMP personnel are responding in addition to federal, state, and local resources, the pipeline operator said.

PHMSA said it is continuing its investigation of the incident. The line apparently failed at about 3:15 p.m. CDT on Mar. 29 near Milepost 315 on the 850-mile, 20-in. line from Patoka, Ill., to the Texas Gulf Coast, according to the CAO. It said EMP reported the failure to the National Response Center by 4 p.m., and has estimated that 3,500-5,000 bbl of crude were released.

EMP said it is developing a plan to excavate and remove the affected pipeline portion for PHMSA to review.

In an Apr. 2 letter to ExxonMobil officials, McDaniel asked the company to require any affected employees and affiliated organizations to preserve all “documents, data compilations (including electronically recorded and stored data), tangible objects or other information” relevant to the pipeline rupture, spill, and cleanup.

“Requesting that ExxonMobil secure these documents and data is the first step in determining what happened and preserving evidence for any future litigation,” the state’s attorney general said. EMP said it will comply with McDaniel’s request.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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