Confidentiality agreement with Exxon doesn't mean Central Arkansas Water won't still sue | Arkansas Blog

Confidentiality agreement with Exxon doesn't mean Central Arkansas Water won't still sue

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CAW Watershed Protection Manager John Tynan - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • CAW Watershed Protection Manager John Tynan
The  confidentiality agreement  Central Arkansas Water (CAW) and ExxonMobil reached the day after the water utility threatened to sue Exxon over violations of the Pipeline Safety Act doesn't mean CAW won't sue in the future, CAW Watershed Protection Manager John Tynan said today. 

"We have not withdrawn the notice of intent to sue that we sent last week. As we stated last week, the notice provides us with an important option regarding a possible restart and we will maintain that option. If we are able to gain access to the requested data and are able to work with Exxon to implement additional safety and integrity improvements, this legal option may not be needed."

CAW filed a notice of intent to sue Exxon on Sept. 19. The unusual legal maneuver of notifying a party that it'll be sued, rather than simply suing it, is dictated under the Pipeline Safety Act, which requires that potential plaintiffs give 60 days notice to the accused and the Department of Transportation. In a letter to local officials, CAW CEO Graham Rich said the notice came three weeks after CAW had provided a "signed, negotiated, and mutually agreed-upon" version of the confidentially agreement to Exxon. The following day, ExxonMobil Pipeline Company President Gary Pruessing signed the agreement.

The agreement says that Exxon will make documents available to CAW as hard copies or in a "virtual data room hosted by a third party." Though CAW officials have said the third party site is not an effort to circumvent the state's Freedom of Information law, it clearly is. Since the March oil spill in Mayflower, Exxon has been reluctant or unwilling to release any data or analysis about the Pegasus pipeline. It's claimed a confidential exemption from FOIA, for competitive and security reasons, on all reports it supplied the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). Only after pressure from Arkansas's congressional delegation did Exxon and PHMSA release some reports. 

Tynan said that notes taken on documents viewed on the third-party site would be subject to FOIA, but the confidentiality agreement suggests otherwise. We'll be keeping an eye on progress.

Meanwhile, yesterday, Exxon spokesman Aaron Stryk responded to CAW's threat of legal action, saying that because PHMSA is assessing the condition of the pipeline any other review wouldn't be "constructive." See his full response on the jump. Keep in mind that our reporting partner, InsideClimate News, recently quoted PHMSA's top safety official as saying the regulatory process he oversees is "kind of dying." 

[W]e will continue to keep public officials and CAW informed of new developments and have committed to review our work plan and restart plan, including additional safety processes, response measures for containment and ongoing integrity management practices, before the pipeline is placed back in operation.

At this point, there have been no new developments to share or discuss with CAW since that meeting. It would be unfortunate if CAW prefers to litigate this matter rather than work cooperatively with EMPCo to try to resolve their concerns on mutually agreeable terms.

While we recognize there is more ahead in the way of additional testing, pipeline validations, and work plan activities, it is not constructive to conduct a separate review outside of what PHMSA is already conducting.

In the meantime, the Pegasus Pipeline is down, and we will not restart it until we are satisfied it is safe to do so and have the approval of PHMSA. 


We received the letter from Central Arkansas Water (CAW) only after it was circulated to elected officials and the media. No one at ExxonMobil received advance communication of the notice of intent.

We understand CAW’s concerns and those of public officials responsible for the Lake Maumelle Watershed. As a responsible operator of pipelines nationwide, we naturally consider and address potential impacts from our operations.

The Pegasus Pipeline is regulated by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). ExxonMobil Pipeline Company (EMPCo) remains under a Corrective Action Order for the pipeline, and is cooperating with PHMSA in all matters related to the investigation.

The company is conducting this investigation with the highest integrity and in response to the incident and is providing unprecedented access to information to regulators, public officials, and CAW.

On August 26, ExxonMobil executives met and briefed public officials, along with a number of CAW representatives and experts. Our Pipeline Risk and Integrity Manager participated in these briefings, explained EMPCo’s Integrity Management Program, and shared available results of all integrity tests conducted on the pipeline since 2006.

While our investigation is not as expedient as some would like it to be, we will not rush our comprehensive review and analysis.

As we have stated in the past, and as demonstrated by our participation in the August 26 meeting, we will continue to keep public officials and CAW informed of new developments and have committed to review our work plan and restart plan, including additional safety processes, response measures for containment and ongoing integrity management practices, before the pipeline is placed back in operation.

At this point, there have been no new developments to share or discuss with CAW since that meeting. It would be unfortunate if CAW prefers to litigate this matter rather than work cooperatively with EMPCo to try to resolve their concerns on mutually agreeable terms.

While we recognize there is more ahead in the way of additional testing, pipeline validations, and work plan activities, it is not constructive to conduct a separate review outside of what PHMSA is already conducting.
In the meantime, the Pegasus Pipeline is down, and we will not restart it until we are satisfied it is safe to do so and have the approval of PHMSA.

We have been working with CAW for the past several months to identify an appropriate way to share pipeline integrity data pertaining to the Maumelle watershed, including un-redacted test results.

As communicated to them last week, we are close to being able to do that.

Finally, regarding the pressure used in the 2006 hydrostatic tests:

Testing the pipeline’s integrity and establishing a maximum operating pressure can be achieved through a single hydrostatic pressure test.

The hydrostatic test performed on the Pegasus pipeline in 2006 was in full compliance with PHMSA regulations, and both tested the integrity of the pipeline and established the maximum operating pressure for the intended service.

We described these tests in our August 26 presentation as a “strength” test (establishing maximum operating pressure) and as a “leak” test (testing integrity).

More than 70,000 joints of pipe were stressed well beyond maximum operating pressure, typically 125 percent of maximum operating pressure, to remove any defects that had grown beyond critical size since the last test and/or prove that no defects of critical size existed.

The pressure(s) used in the 2006 hydrostatic test were chosen after careful evaluation and consideration of all known relevant factors by EMPCo’s integrity experts. Such factors included, but were not limited to, anticipated operating pressure, elevation profile for the pipeline, pipeline properties, and prior data. Additional analytical benefits, for example, could be derived from using the same pressure(s) used on the last hydrostatic test conducted on the Pegasus pipeline in 1991. By using the same pressure, EMPCo’s integrity experts could perform a direct comparison of the results (apples to apples) and verify that no significant degradation had occurred from 1991 to 2006. A hydrostatic test at a higher pressure would have prevented such a direct comparison.
Regards,
Aaron Stryk
Communications and Media Advisor



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