Monday, December 02, 2013

Lawsuits piling up over March oil-pipeline spill in Arkansas; many residents trying to sell homes

The danger of oil pipelines, and the effect of spills on residents, can be seen firsthand in Mayflower, Ark., where in March, an Exxon Mobil pipeline ruptured, sending 12,000 barrels of oil into the town of 2,300, and causing 22 homes to be evacuated. At least 17 lawsuits have been filed, and "the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration alleged nine 'probable" violations of safety regulations related to the spill and proposed more than $2.6 million in civil penalties" against Exxon, The Associated Press reports. To make matters worse, residents in the subdivision who were hit hardest by the spill are fleeing the neighborhood, with 29 of 62 homes having been "sold to Exxon under its buy-out program or are on the open market," Sam Eifling and Zahra Hirji report for Inside Climate News. (KATV photo: Homes for sale in Mayflower)

"Shortly after the company was notified of the safety allegations, Exxon Mobil issued a statement saying that was still reviewing the notice and had not determined what action it would take," AP reports. "The company has 30 days from the date of the notice, Nov. 6, to respond. It can also request an extension of time during that 30 days. Court litigation likely will take much longer. A lawsuit filed by U.S. Attorney Christopher Thyer and Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel is not scheduled for trial until Feb. 24, 2015. Exxon Mobil has asked the court to dismiss the case, a request that has yet to be ruled upon by U.S. District Judge James M. Moody. Mayflower business owners and residents in the area have filed the other lawsuits." (Read more)

Meanwhile, some Mayflower residents "were forced to sell because oil settled in their homes' foundations, where removing it is nearly impossible," Eifling and Hirji write. "Others chose to leave because of fears about potential health effects and the marketability of their properties. Those who are staying aren't necessarily doing so by choice: Many don't have enough equity to afford a down payment on a new home in another suburb, according to local real estate brokers." Homeowner Ryan Senia told Eifling and Hirji it was either sell to Exxon now or risk "holding onto that thing forever. It's like selling a salvaged car—nobody wants to buy it." (Read more)

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