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ExxonMobil pipeline spill triggers lawsuit

Two Arkansas women sue ExxonMobil after its Pegasus pipeline ruptured, spewing oil onto lawns and roads. The $5 million class-action suit charges the pipeline spill has permanently diminished their property value. 

By Jeanne NussAssociated Press / April 7, 2013

Men wearing protective clothing survey cleanup efforts late last month after an underground crude oil pipeline ruptured in Mayflower, Ark. A class-action suit has been filed against ExxonMobil, saying property values in the area have been permanently diminished.

Rick McFarland/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Reuters/File

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MAYFLOWER, Ark.

Two women who live near an ExxonMobil pipeline that ruptured last week and spilled thousands of barrels of oil in central Arkansas filed a federal lawsuit against the company on Friday.

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The class-action complaint from Kimla Greene and Kathryn Jane Roachell Chunn comes a week after ExxonMobil Pipeline Co.'s Pegasus pipeline ruptured in Mayflower, about 25 miles northwest of Little Rock. Crews are still working to clean up oil that spewed onto lawns and roadways and almost fouled nearby Lake Conway.

The women are seeking money to make up for "a permanent diminishment in property value," according to the complaint. Their complaint says the women are bringing their lawsuit on their own behalf and for other people who live near the pipeline in Arkansas.

One of the women's lawyers, Phillip Duncan, wouldn't spell out exactly how much money they're looking for, but their lawsuit says they're seeking more than $5 million in damages for property owners.

The lawsuit said the part of the pipeline that ruptured was "in an unsafe, defective and deficient condition presenting an immediate environmental harm" on March 29 — the day it ruptured.

"The Pegasus Pipeline running throughout the state of Arkansas is most likely to be similarly situated and maintained ..." Greene and Chunn's lawyers wrote in the complaint.

An Exxon spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit, but a spokeswoman has previously said its inspections were up-to-date. The part of the pipeline that ruptured was inspected in 2010 and again in February, according to a corrective action order that federal pipeline safety officials issued Tuesday.

The Pegasus pipeline, which runs from Patoka, Ill., to the Texas Gulf Coast, was originally built in 1947 and 1948, according to federal pipeline safety officials. It is currently out of service. For that to change, ExxonMobil would need written approval from a federal pipeline safety official, according to the order from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

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