WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Transportation Department is seeking a $2.5 million fine against El Paso Energy Pipeline for safety violations that caused an explosion in August near Carlsbad, N.M., killing a dozen people.
The Office of Pipeline Safety investigation found that El Paso failed to take precautions that could have prevented the blast.
Among the shortcomings, OPS said Thursday that El Paso didn't ensure that corrosion control on the pipeline was performed by qualified personnel, transported corrosive gas without proper precautions, and failed to take preventive measures following a similar accident in 1996.
The Aug. 19 explosion about 30 miles south of Carlsbad killed 12 members of an extended family camping nearby. The explosion left an 86-foot-long crater.
Corrosion inside the 50-year-old pipeline had eaten away at least half of the pipe's wall, although the National Transportation Safety Board is still determining the official cause of the rupture.
"We must do everything we can to prevent loss of life from pipeline failures," said Edward Brigham, acting deputy administrator of the Transportation Department's Research and Special Programs Administration, in a statement. "The penalties we seek in this case reflect the importance of comprehensive integrity management programs."
The company has the option of paying the fine or requesting a hearing within 30 days. At that time they can produce new evidence or otherwise make a case why the fine is unfounded.
A spokeswoman said the company will appeal.
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