The Transcontinental Pipeline Company, a subsidiary of Williams Partners LP, has been hit with a proposed $1.6 million in civil penalties by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). This arises out of a fatal 2015 compressor station explosion in Louisiana. PHMSA has sent a notice of a probable violation and proposed compliance order to the company, saying the administration found noncompliance issues with federal pipeline safety regulations. The incident occurred on Oct. 8, 2015, near Bayou Black, La.
The incident at the Transco Compressor Station 62 – which gets unprocessed natural gas by way of a pipeline from Gulf of Mexico offshore producers – resulted in the death of four Transcontinental employees from either fire or smoke as well as the evacuation of nearby residents and closure of a state highway. The PHMSA letter said:
The proposed compliance order incorporates remedial actions that correspond to each alleged violation to ensure compliance with pipeline safety regulations and improve safety.
PHMSA said that Transcontinental didn’t provide all the relevant facts of the incident when it first told the National Response Center (NRC) about it, including the number of deaths and injuries. The explosion occurred at 11 a.m. on Oct. 8. The call to the NRC was made just after 12 p.m. The PHMSA letter said further:
Media reports released as early as 11:32 a.m. included information indicating that at least one fatality and four injuries had occurred, and it was known to the operator that injuries and at least one fatality had occurred at the time the report was filed with the NRC.
PHMSA says that Transcontinental didn’t take adequate steps to minimize the danger of an accidental ignition in an area where there was a combustion hazard because of the presence of gas during welding in the same area. PHMSA said further that Transcontinental didn’t stop work when gas was detected. Transcontinental was also alleged to have allowed contractors without the prerequisite training to assume safety and monitoring responsibilities.
Transcontinental has 30 days to respond to PHMSA’s allegations. If the company doesn’t respond, it waives its right to contest the allegations and authorizes the associate administrator for pipeline safety to issue a final order. PHMSA also said the company must further comply with pipeline safety regulations and improve safety.