Pegasus Pipeline

ExxonMobil’s Pegasus pipeline routes in three segments. First first segment travels from Patoka, Illinois, to Corsicana, Texas. The second route runs from Corsicana to Beaumont, and the third, from Beaumont to Nederland. Pegasus was built in 1948 and is called various names, for its various segments.  The pipeline is often only 20 inches in diameter with walls that are 5/16 of an inch thick. It originally transported diesel oil north to Patoka. In 2002 it was taken out of service and purged, and in 2006 it was re-purposed, and reversed, to carry diluted bitumen.

ExxonMobil touted its successful completion of the flow reversal process, pumping dilbit as the first of its kind. This was a bad deal for communities living along its path that were never directly informed of the changes in the pipe’s direction of flow or its contents.

On March 29, 2013, the Patoka-Corsicana segment experienced a major catastrophic rupture. Diluted tar sands bitumen spilled out of the 22-foot gash in the antiquated pipe. While 5,000 barrels flowed through the suburban Mayflower neighborhood, people were evacuated.  Today 3,000 barrels remain unaccounted for, very likely having sunk to the bottom of Lake Conway.

This same segment spilled again on April 30 in Doniphan, Missouri, even though the pipeline had been shut down since the Mayflower disaster. Replacement of a guide cable to a utility pole resulted in the shallow pipeline being punctured.

While only about 50 gallons spilled, this underscores the lack of regard for safety when old, shallow pipelines are reversed and re-purposed to carry diluted bitumen.

Prior to these spills, the Pegasus pipeline pumped as much as 65,000 barrels per day between 2006 and 2009. Since then its capacity has been increased to 95,000 bpd. Currently, the entire Pegasus system has been taken offline under Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) Corrective Action Order (CAO) pending changes made to, and tests run on, the full 850 miles of pipe.  The Arkansas Attorney General filed suit along with the U.S. Department of Justice for state and federal violations and has ordered a thorough review of the Pegasus pipeline.

Steve Horn, from the DeSmogBlog website writes about major lawsuits now underway:

Two major lawsuits were recently filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas against ExxonMobil, the “private empire” behind the March 2013 Pegasus tar sands pipeline spill of over 1.1 million gallons of diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) into the neighborhoods and waterways of Mayflower, AR, located in Faulkner County.

One is a class-action lawsuit filed by the Duncan Firm, Thrash Law Firm and Parker Waichman LLP on June 27. The other is a suit filed on June 13 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in concert with the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office, led by AG Dustin McDaniel.

Collectively, both lawsuits lay out the damning facts of the second biggest tar sands pipeline spill in U.S. history, caused by a 22-foot gash in the pipeline, second only to Enbridge’s “dilbit disaster” in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The cases also call for the spill’s victims – both people, government bodies and the ecosystem – to receive reparations.

Among other things, both suits clarify that ExxonMobil Pipeline Company dilbit has contaminated Lake Conway, the largest man-made game and fish commission lake*** in the United States, which serves as a tributary of the Arkansas River.

The class-action tort lawsuit slaps ExxonMobil with willful negligence under Arkansas state law, alleging Exxon knew Pegasus – built in the 1940’s far before the age of “extreme energy” and designed to carry light crude – would spill at some point. The suit also reveals for the first time that the spill was just the biggest of 13 other spills preceding it, meaning it was not just a spill out of the blue.

The joint EPA/Arkansas AG civil lawsuit cites Exxon for violating the Clean Water Act, Arkansas’ Hazardous Waste Management Act and Arkansas’ Water and Air Pollution Control Act.

Taken together, both suits keep the heat on ExxonMobil and on Alberta tar sands production at-large as the battle over the proposed northern half of TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline heats up. U.S. President Barack Obama’s State Department is expected to make a decision on that pipeline’s fate in the next few months.

[Original article can be found here.]

Further updates may appear as they break on our News page.

[Thanks to the good folks at Safe Community Alliance for allowing us to adapt their coverage of the Pegasus Pipeline here]