The government shutdown has hampered Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s investigation into ExxonMobil’s oil spill in Mayflower, according to a letter McDaniel sent to Congressman Tim Griffin.
In the latter, dated for Tuesday, McDaniel says his office is in litigation against ExxonMobil, and the litigation will be expensive and require s state and federal resources.
McDaniel says some employees of agencies his task force is working with have been furloughed.
In provided examples, McDaniel said 19 employees of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality’s Hazardous Waste Division have been furloughed, and two of the employees were stationed in Mayflower.
Five of eight staff attorneys at the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality are no longer at work, he writes.
McDaniel says the environmental testing laboratory at ADEQ has been disrupted due to staff shortages, and more than two-thirds of United States Department of Justice’s Civil Division, the State’s partners in litigation against Exxon, have been furloughed.
The letter states McDaniel has heard reports that the pipeline regulatory agency, Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, will lay off 247 of its 441 employees.
McDaniel asks Griffin to use his influence in Congress to reopen the government, “to ensure that our State remains in the best possible legal position.”
“The reality is that this shutdown is very bad for the citizens of Mayflower and for our State. Our litigation is potentially impaired and the ongoing PHMSA investigation into the cause of this spill could be slowed considerably,” McDaniel wrote.
In a response letter from Griffin sent to McDaniel Tuesday, Griffin said he do what is in his power to open the federal government, while working to hold ExxonMobil accountable for “any wrongdoing.”
Aaron Saddler, McDaniel’s spokesman, said Tuesday the State’s case against Exxon is awaiting a judge’s ruling on the company’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
The motion to dismiss was filed by Exxon Aug. 23, and part of the “normal legal process,” Exxon spokesman Aaron Stryk said in an earlier interview.
The State of Arkansas, along with the United States, filed a complaint against ExxonMobil on June 13 after the March 29 oil spill.
(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1236, or on Twitter @Courtneyism. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)