Appeals Panel Voids Exxon Pipe-Risk Order

The appeals court ruled that, while regrettable, the fact that the spill occurred does not mean that ExxonMobil violated pipeline integrity regulations for risk assessment.

A federal appeals court panel has handed Exxon Mobil a victory in the oil giant’s clash with the government over a regulatory order resulting from the Pegasus pipeline oil spill in Mayflower, Arkansas, more than 4 years ago.

In a decision issued 14 August and made public on 15 August, a three-judge panel of the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans vacated an order that Exxon Mobil revise its process for determining the seam-risk factor for all of the company’s older pipes still used in lines similar to the aging Pegasus.

In an accompanying opinion, the court wrote: “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. 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 unfortunate fact of the matter is that, despite adherence to safety guidelines and regulations, oil spills still do occur,” the court added.

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