A New Orleans federal appeals court says the government government came down too hard in leveling a $2.6 million fine against Exxon Mobil for the 2013 oil pipeline spill that happened in March 2013 in Mayflower, Arkansas.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit threw out some of the safety violations leveled against the company by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The court, in its ruling on Monday said the company had met its legal obligations in considering all the risk factors of the 859-mile Pegasus Pipeline. The line carries oil from Patoka, Illinois to Nederland, Texas.
“In sum, the record demonstrates that ExxonMobil met its obligation (and) instruction to “consider” various risk factors,” wrote the judges. ”
The unfortunate fact of the matter is that, despite adherence to safety guidelines and regulations, oil spills still do occur,” Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote for the court. The decision gives the Trump administration (which lacks a permanent PHMSA chief or nominee to fill that slot) an opportunity to lower the $2.6 million fine levied against Exxon.
The court also stated, “We conclude that the agency (PHMSA) acted contrary to the evidence before it and in an arbitrary and capricious manner when it determined that ExxonMobil’s misrepresentation to the TIARA program was a causal factor in the Mayflower release.”
The appeals court sent the matter back to a lower court to reconsider the fines against ExxonMobil.