by Max Brantley
The first lawsuit has been filed over the rupture of the Exxon Mobil pipeline at Mayflower.
Here's a copy of the suit, filed in federal court in Little Rock.
Kathryn Chunn and Kimla Green are named plaintiffs in a class action suit filed by lawyers from the Duncan and Thrash law firms.
The suit argues that the pipeline carrying Canadian crude was in unsafe and defective condition and the break has diminished value of property all along the pipeline.
Chunn and Green both live on Ledrick Circle in Mayflower and suffered property damage, the suit says.
The suit argues that a decision to reverse the flow of oil transported in 2006 contributed to the break. Where lighter crude had been shipped north from sources to the south, the line now carries Canadian crude to Gulf refineries. The higher volume of more abrasive crude put greater pressure on the pipeline, the suit contends. It says pipeline capacity was increased by 30 percent in 2009 with activation of pumping stations. The pipeline has not been adequately maintained or inspected, the suit says.
No source is cited, but the suit claims a bigger spill of oil than has been reported to date — 19,000 barrels and the "worst in Arkansas history." Fox 16 reports, however, that Exxon Mobil has ratcheted its estimate of spilled oil to 5,000 barrels. Seems small since the cutoff valves on the 20-inch pipeline are 18 miles apart and the flow wasn't stopped for 15 minutes or so. In addition to affecting the plaintiffs' property, the oil also flowed into a tributary to a cove of Lake Conway, a popular recreational spot. To date, Exxon has claimed no oil has reached Lake Conway, through Times' photographer Brian Chilson photographed oil slicks in a cove today. Maybe it's from an outboard motor.
The suit contends anyone living with 3,000 feet of the pipeline in Arkansas has been directly impacted by diminished property value. Because Exxon concealed problems with the pipeline, the suit argues, no statute of limitations should apply to decisions that contributed to the break, such as the change in flow and increase in pumping.
The suit, which seeks actual and punitive damages, could cover thousands of people and aggregate damages could be over $5 million.