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Judge won’t toss lawsuit over Mayflower oil spill

A federal judge on Monday denied a motion by ExxonMobil to dismiss a lawsuit filed by federal and state officials over the 2013 Mayflower oil spill.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker said the suit by Chris Thyer, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel can proceed.

The suit seeks an order requiring ExxonMobil to pay cleanup costs plus damages for alleged violations of the Arkansas Water and Air Pollution Control Act, the Arkansas Hazardous Waste Management Act, the federal Oil Pollution Act and the federal Clean Water Act. It also seeks an order requiring ExxonMobil to stop storing oily water, soil and debris at a site on Arkansas 36 in Conway without a state permit.

ExxonMobil had argued that the suit should be dismissed because it does not offer facts to show that oil released in the March 29, 2013, rupture of the Pegasus pipeline in Mayflower polluted navigable waters; that gross negligence or willful misconduct occurred; that hazardous waste violations occurred; that specific water pollution violation occurred, aside from general, conclusory statements; or that ongoing water pollution violations are occurring that would cause irreparable harm if not enjoined.

In a 17-page order, Baker said Monday she was satisfied that the creek, wetlands and portion of Lake Conway that the suit alleges were polluted by the spill can be considered navigable waters. She also said gross negligence and willful misconduct are “degrees of culpability” that the court will consider if it awards damages, not elements that have to be established at this stage of the case.

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