Williams’ Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. (Transco) faces penalties and up to $952,500 in fines following an investigation into a pipeline rupture and fire in September 2008 near Appomattox, VA, the Department of Transportation (DOT) said this week.

On Sept. 14, 2008, inspectors with DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) responded to a Transco gas pipeline rupture and subsequent fire in Appomattox County that resulted in five injuries, the evacuation of 23 families and the destruction of two homes. Dozens of other homes were damaged.

Following the incident, PHMSA issued Transco a corrective action order, which imposed restrictions and corrective actions on the failed pipeline segment, as well as on adjacent lines (see Daily GPI, Sept. 30, 2008). The order required the company to eliminate risks to public and environmental assets through measures including pressure reductions, internal and external inspections and repairs.

In addition to addressing the immediate failure location, the PHMSA order required Transco to focus on other segments of the pipeline to address potential problem areas that could lead to pipeline failures.

This week’s penalty notice and proposed fine “underscores the department’s commitment to ensuring that the nation’s energy pipeline system delivers critically needed energy supplies both safely and reliably,” said DOT Deputy Secretary John Porcari.

PHMSA investigators, who recently completed their review of the incident, said they discovered “possible failures” by Transco to address regulatory requirements for monitoring and preventing external corrosion. Installing effective corrosion control methods has proved to be a vital maintenance function necessary to help ensure pipeline integrity, DOT said.

“It is important for pipeline operators to remain vigilant in their operations to prevent ruptures from occurring, keeping our communities safe and without the disruption of energy supplies,” Porcari said. “The assessment of civil penalties is a key component of our oversight mission.”

PHMSA personnel “have continuously worked with Williams-Transco to ensure all necessary requirements included in the order are completed,” DOT said. PHMSA and its state pipeline safety partners “oversee about 9,000 miles of Williams-Transco gas transmission pipelines and 3,000 miles of gathering lines in 15 states and the Gulf of Mexico,” according to federal officials.

Williams Gas Pipelines subsidiary, which oversees Transco’s business, has 30 days from the date of the penalty notice and proposed fine to respond.

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