Federal prosecutors’ request to stay proceedings in the lawsuit over ExxonMobil’s role in the oil spill in Mayflower have been granted by a district judge.
The stay comes two days after Attorney General Dustin McDaniel made public a letter to Congressman Tim Griffin, asking Griffin to use his influence to reopen the federal government because the shutdown was hampering McDaniel’s investigation and litigation against ExxonMobil.
U.S. District Judge James Moody granted a request from U.S. Attorney Chris Thyer Thursday seeking to stay the case because of the government shutdown.
McDaniel has said some government employees who were working with his staff, including officials with the Department of Justice Civil Division, have been furloughed.
Two of 19 Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality’s Hazardous Waste Division employees furloughed were stationed in Mayflower, McDaniel said.
Thyer said, according to the Associated Press, most attorneys with the Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency were unable to work on the case, even on a voluntary basis, because of the lapse in federal funding.
A spokesperson from Thyer’s office said Thursday she could not comment on the stay in the case or other matters due to the government shutdown.
She said she could only comment on issues critical to life and safety.
Thyer was not immediately available for comment Thursday afternoon.
The lawsuit, filed jointly by federal prosecutors and Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, seeks civil penalties for the oil spill in a Mayflower subdivision.
Exxon’s Pegasus pipeline ruptured in March, spilling thousands of barrels of oil into the Northwoods neighborhood, through a series of drainage ditches and into the Lake Conway watershed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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