Pipeline violation penalties hit record high

The Transportation Department issued more than $9.7 million in proposed civil penalties against pipeline operators responsible for transporting U.S. energy supplies for safety violations last year.

It's the highest yearly amount of proposed penalties in the agency's history.

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"The Department remains committed to ensuring America's 2.6 million mile pipeline network is capable of safely delivering America's vital energy needs," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement this week.

The number of penalties proposed since 2009 by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) have increased by more than $33 million against pipeline operators transporting U.S. energy resources like crude oil.

Despite the record number of civil penalties on safety violations, the PHMSA said the number of serious pipeline incidents have fallen 45 percent since 2009.

"The proposed fines send the powerful message that we are holding non-compliant pipeline operators accountable for their actions and will be using our higher civil penalty authority to the max whenever necessary," Foxx said.

Head of the PHMSA, Cynthia Quarterman, added that the agency is resolving enforcement actions at quicker pace, cutting down its average time to initiate and fully complete an enforcement case by 65 percent. 

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