As Exxon Prepares to Get Sued Over Mayflower Spill, Pennsylvania Accuses It of Illegal Dumping

Next time you're in Irving, be sure to stop at ExxonMobil's headquarters and tell the front desk you're there to give a hug to whoever needs it, because Fort Worth-based Exxon is having a rough couple of weeks. I mean, aside from the $7 billion quarterly earnings.

The company's most recent oopsie happened in the Arkansas town of Mayflower. Exxon's aging Pegasus pipeline ruptured and leaked 200,000 gallons of heavy crude into town and, eventually, in an important lake.

That actually happened a full six months ago, but currently only 84,000 gallons of the spilled oil have been accounted for, and the lawsuits are just getting started. The Dallas Morning News reported Sunday that people are expecting big settlements and attorneys are "lining up" to sue Exxon.

While Exxon is accused of not trying hard enough to prevent such an accident, the oil giant at least tried hard to protect itself from getting in trouble afterward. Back in April, a reporter from environment news site InsideClimate News entered the command center for the Mayflower cleanup operation, where an Exxon spokesman promptly told her to leave, or "you'll be arrested for criminal trespass." Despite this hiccup, InsideClimate managed to dig up plenty of dirt, reporting in a recent story that ExxonMobil had known since 2006 that its Pegasasus pipeline had "many manufacturing defects."

The burst came just two years after another Exxon pipeline ruptured on Montana's Yellowstone River. The News gave an overview of Exxon's sticky legal situation, reporting on Sunday that there is mounting litigitation just on Exxon's pipeline network alone (the company has 8,000 miles of pipelines in the US).

And that's just pipelines. XTO Energy, an Exxon subsidiary, is also facing fresh criminal charges from the state of Pennsylvania, Bloomberg reports: In 2010, some state officials made an unannounced visit to a shale-gas drilling site and caught XTO dumping toxic fracking wastewater into the ground, which is illegal.

Last week, the state's attorney general announced that her office would file criminal charges against XTO Energy for dumping the fluid.

In a statement, XTO maintained that "criminal charges are unwarranted and legally baseless because neither XTO nor any of its employees intentionally, recklessly, or negligently discharged produced water on the site."

The decision to prosecute has nonetheless "sent shock waves through the industry," the Philly Inquirer reports.

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Amy Martyn
Contact: Amy Martyn