oil rigs on piles of money
Shutterstock

The federal government wants to fine Exxon $2.7 million for the March oil spill from its 70-year-old pipeline in Mayflower, Ark. The ruptured pipe spewed 5,000 gallons of tar-sands oil and triggered the evacuation of 22 houses, some of which had to be bulldozed.

The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration sent a letter [PDF] to the Exxon Mobil Pipeline Co. on Wednesday proposing the civil penalty because the company failed to heed test results and take other steps that could have prevented the spill. The fine isn’t final yet; Exxon has 30 days to file an appeal. And an appeal seems likely considering that Exxon is claiming PHMSA’s analysis contains “fundamental errors.”

Meanwhile, Montana and the U.S. Department of Interior informed Exxon last week that they plan to sue the company over a 63,000-gallon oil spill from a pipeline two years ago in the Yellowstone River. That’s on top of $3.4 million in state and federal fines that have already been assessed. From the Associated Press:

The move puts Exxon on notice that Montana and the Department of Interior expect the company to make up for harm done to wildlife and their habitat. The company also is being asked to pay for long-term environmental studies and for lost opportunities for fishing and recreation during and since the cleanup.

Exxon spent millions on cleanup, but it turns out that its cleanup workers did a pretty shitty job:

“You picked up the oil, but you picked up the stuff that makes the habitat work, as well,” said Bob Gibson, a spokesman for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. “We know there’s damage out there that has not been mitigated, cleaned up or compensated for. We need to decide what further can be done.”

But what does Exxon care? The company made $45 billion in profit last year. A couple million here and there in fines and legal fees doesn’t even make a dent.