Report: Federal fines rare in gas pipeline explosions

An E&E News analysis out today finds that the federal Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration sought no fine in 90 percent of the 137 pipeline fires or explosions since 2019.

The article quotes Bath County landowner Bill Limpert, who has fought Dominion Energy’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which plans to cut through his property,

Pipeline disasters are rare, relative to the vast amount of oil and gas they transport every day. But PHMSA’s apparent reluctance to impose financial penalties isn’t reassuring to people who live in the path of the pipeline construction boom.

“It almost seems like the industry can make money by skimping on safety and the fines don’t catch up with them,” Limpert said. “It seems like it’s part of the cost of doing business.”

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, along with the Mountain Valley Pipeline, two major new 42-inch diameter natural gas pipelines, are currently in various stages of construction or development in Virginia, though a range of legal battles are playing out in court over the permits that allowed them to move forward.

And though aging, poorly pipelines might pose the biggest risk, new ones can explode also, as has happened recently in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Virginia has also seen it happen. Ten years ago, the Transco pipeline exploded near Appomattox, leveling homes but miraculously claiming no lives. The company paid a nearly $1 million fine.