Appeals court voids pipeline safety order for Exxon

Markets Associated Press

An appeals court has voided an order that would have required Exxon Mobil to revise its pipeline-safety procedures after a 2013 oil spill in Arkansas.

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The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued the order in 2015, and it could have applied to more than 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers) of the Texas oil and gas company's pipelines. A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on Monday vacated the order resulting from the Pegasus pipeline oil spill in Mayflower, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported .

"The fact that the Mayflower release occurred, while regrettable, does not necessarily mean that (Exxon Mobil) failed to abide by the pipeline integrity regulations in considering the appropriate risk factors," the court said. "If it did, then an operator that experiences a seam-related pipeline leak on its pipeline system could never escape liability under pipeline integrity regulations."

The panel also voided over $1,630,000 of the more than $2,630,000 the pipeline agency had fined Exxon Mobil.

"Because the regulations unambiguously instruct pipeline operators to 'consider' certain risk factors, and because the evidence demonstrates that (Exxon Mobil) did carefully consider those factors, we conclude that the agency's decisions" associated with those findings "were arbitrary and capricious," the court said.

Exxon Mobil agrees with the court's decision, company spokesman Todd Spitler said.

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"We share PHMSA's goal to ensure public safety and will continue to work with industry and PHMSA on ways to further enhance pipeline system integrity," Spitler said.

The federal agency didn't immediately respond to the newspaper's request for comment.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com