By ALISON SIDER
ExxonMobil has offered to buy the homes of residents of a
Mayflower, Ark., neighborhood where a pipeline ruptured last
month spilling thousands of barrels of oil.
The offer is part of
a compensation package that includes a $10,000 payment for each
household to cover "disruption and inconvenience," as well as
payment of cleaning and landscaping costs, moving expenses and
The move is part of Exxon's response to the rupture of the
Pegasus pipeline, which on March 29 spilled an estimated 5,000
bbl of oil into streets and yards of this tranquil community.
Crews were still at work this week cleaning some areas, and the
Arkansas Department of Health said Wednesday that none of the
residents of 22 evacuated homes have yet returned.
Under the deal put forward by Exxon Tuesday, owners of the
11 homes "directly impacted" by the spill can sell their
property to Exxon within the next three years at prices
determined by appraisers approved by the US Department of
Housing and Urban Development. The company also agreed to buy
other homes in the neighborhood if no buyers come forward or of
the spill affects the sale price.
For residents who decide to stay in the neighborhood, Exxon
said it would make a one-time payment for any reduction in
property value in the next three years.
The company said accepting the compensation offer won't
affect a person's rights to make claims against Exxon.
"ExxonMobil will continue to work with you to resolve such
claims," the letter stated. Exxon said Tuesday that 246 claims
have been made to a hotline number it set up after the
Exxon's bid to placate homeowners comes in the midst of
increased awareness of the fragility of the nation's pipeline
network. It also comes in the wake of the BP 2010 U.S. Gulf of
Mexico spill, in which the UK-based oil giant spent billions
compensating individuals and businesses affected by the
Jim Finton, who lives in the Northwoods neighborhood but did
not have to evacuate, said he thinks Exxon's offer is fair, but
he hasn't decided whether he will stay or go.
"A lot goes into that," he said. "If I do stay and they buy
some of the homes, what will happen with those homes? Will this
subdivision degenerate into low-rent rental-property type
The Arkansas Department of Health has approved a plan to
allow residents of 10 of the 22 evacuated homes to return.
Department spokesman Ed Barham said the air quality in the area
is not dangerous, but other measures, such as earth moving,
will need to be finished before residents can go home.
Exxon spokesman David Eglinton said some work, such as
replacing part of the storm-drainage system, is still being
done in the neighborhood.
"While the Arkansas Department of Health has indicated there
should be no impact on the health of Northwoods neighborhood
residents, some residents may not decide to return until all
work involving heavy equipment within the neighborhood has been
completed," Mr. Eglinton said Wednesday.
Earlier this week Exxon cut out a 52-foot-long section of
pipe and sent it to a metallurgical lab for testing. On Tuesday
the company replaced that section of pipe, but repair and
testing plans must be approved by federal regulators before the
95,000-barrel-a-day pipeline can be restarted, a spokesman
Central Arkansas Water, a major public utility in the
region, has asked Exxon to make certain repairs to the line
before getting it up and running again. The system wants Exxon
to eventually move the line out of the Lake Maumelle Watershed,
where it runs for 13 miles.
US Rep. Tim Griffin, whose district includes Little Rock and
Mayflower, seconded that request, asking Exxon to find a way to
move the pipeline.
"I am especially concerned that the steepness of the
shoreline at Lake Maumelle could exacerbate contamination of
the water supply in the event of an oil spill and make cleanup
more difficult," Mr. Griffin said in a press release.
A spokesman for Exxon said the company is reviewing the
Dow Jones Newswires