Sunday, October 3, 2010

States give few fines for pipeline violations

State regulators around the nation seldom impose large fines for violations of pipeline safety codes, even for incidents causing deaths or substantial damage, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

Fourteen states have not levied a single pipeline fine since 2001 and another 20 states have issued only one or two fines per year, federal records show.

State regulators oversee pipelines that run within state lines. The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Agency (PHMSA) has jurisdiction over pipelines that cross state lines. The pipelines move natural gas, oil, propane and other hazardous items.

Regulators say fines aren't always needed. "We don't do a lot of fines because there's a lot of compliance," PUC executive director Paul Clanon said.

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