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U.S. agency says Exxon tries to dodge blame for Arkansas leak

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Exxon Mobil Pipeline Co. is trying to “escape responsibility” for not considering that a pipeline that ruptured in Arkansas was susceptible to seam failure despite a history of such problems, according to a federal agency.

Exxon Mobil is challenging a finding by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration that the oil giant violated safety regulations, which led to the pipeline’s rupture in Mayflower in 2013. The company, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil Corp., also has challenged the $2.6 million fine levied by the agency, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported (http://bit.ly/2drlceP ).

In a document filed with a federal appeals court, the safety administration said the Pegasus pipeline, built in 1947-48, “had experienced numerous seam failures, both during testing and in-service.”

Those included an in-service “leak” in 1984 as well as leaks during hydrostatic, or water-pressure, testing in 1969, 1991 and 2005-06. The failures had been increasing while also occurring at lower test pressures over the years, the agency said. Both factors indicated “a likelihood that seam degradation was taking place,” it said.

Exxon Mobil is especially concerned about an agency order that the company revise its seam-failure susceptibility process for all such pipes in all of the pipelines it operates, not just the Pegasus.

The company has said it operates more than 1,000 miles of pipeline that is in similar condition as the Pegasus and is subject to federal safety regulations. The same kind of pipe is used in 25 percent of the nation’s oil pipelines, it said.

The Mayflower rupture led to the long-term evacuation of 22 homes. Three of those were demolished, and many residents never moved back into the neighborhood. Exxon Mobil shut down the roughly 850-mile pipeline running from Patoka, Illinois, to Texas shortly after the accident. All but a 211-mile section in Texas remains closed.

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