$ettlements Made Over Natural Gas Pipeline Explosion (15 Years Ago)

by Duane Nichols on February 12, 2018

Natural gas pipeline accidents do happen!

El Paso Corp. settles with victims’ families over pipeline explosion

From an Article by Eric Billingsley, New Mexico Business Weekly, Albuquerque, September 16, 2002

Two years after one of the deadliest natural gas pipeline explosions in New Mexico’s history, Houston-based El Paso Corporation has reached the last in a series of out-of-court settlements with family members of the victims.

On August 31, El Paso reached an undisclosed settlement with Martha Chapman and Jerry Rackley, who lost five family members on August 19, 2000 when a natural gas pipeline owned by the company exploded near Carlsbad, New Mexico killing 12 people. They were camped next to the Pecos River near the path of the pipeline when the explosion occurred.

Chapman and Rackley filed suit in the District Court of Eddy County in February 2000 charging El Paso with five counts of wrongful death. The case was set to go to trial on October 1 in the Fifth Judicial District Court in Chaves County. Claims for the other seven people killed were filed as separate lawsuits, and have been settled out of court for undisclosed amounts since 2000. The only amount disclosed was a $14 million settlement for one of the victims.

“The settlement resolves all outstanding civil litigation in the state of New Mexico associated with the rupture,” says El Paso spokesperson Mel Scott.

“Hopefully an important lesson has been learned by El Paso and the natural gas industry in general so this kind of tragedy can never again occur,” says Bob Schuster, attorney for Chapman and Rackley.

The Carlsbad explosion is still being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) to determine whether there was negligence on the part of El Paso.

Shortly after the blast, NTSB Chairman Jim Hall issued a statement saying that investigators determined the section of pipe that failed had not been inspected internally since the 1950s. A series of reports issued by the NTSB in June said “severe corrosion damage” was found on the bottom of the pipeline near the explosion site, according to a recent article in Natural Gas Intelligence, an industry trade publication. NTSB is responsible for determining the cause of the explosion.

The DOT is seeking a $2.52 million civil penalty from El Paso for safety violations including: failing to ensure qualified personnel performed corrosion control procedures; transporting corrosive gas on numerous occasions without taking proper and mitigative steps; failing to follow procedures for surveillance of its facilities; failure to take action to reduce the possibility of pipeline failure following a similar incident in 1996; and not having an accurate elevation map for lines involved in the Carlsbad incident, which would have shown where liquid could accumulate and corrosion could occur.

The penalty is considered the largest civil penalty proposed against a gas transmission pipeline operator in the history of the federal pipeline safety program, according to DOT officials.

El Paso has been issued several compliance actions from the OPS since 1984 that address maintenance procedures, timeliness in performing safety inspections, inadequate training of personnel on preventing corrosion, gas vent locations and valve security. The OPS also notes that on “more than one occasion” El Paso has failed to promptly restore and maintain protections against external corrosion on its system.

One year prior to the Carlsbad explosion, a liquid gasoline pipeline owned by Olympic Pipe Line Co. (which has since been purchased by Shell) leaked and exploded, killing two children in Bellingham, Washington.

The families of the two children sued Olympic, Houston-based Equilon Pipeline, Los Angeles-based Atlantic Richfield Co. which owned the petroleum products being transported in the line, and IMCO General Construction Co. which had apparently dented the pipeline a few years prior to the accident. That case was also settled out of court in April for $75 million, less than a month before going to trial.

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Erin O’Neil March 17, 2018 at 10:10 am


LG&E slammed with largest fine in history for Oldham County pipeline rupture
From Erin O’Neil, WAVE News 3, March 16th 2018
FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) – Louisville Gas and Electric Co. (LG&E) has been fined $395,000 by the Kentucky Public Service Commission for violations that led to the rupture of an Oldham County high-pressure gas pipeline in September 2014.

The penalty is the largest fine ever assessed in a natural gas safety case, the KSPC said.

Proximity to homes, a school and businesses – or “high consequence areas” – were factors in determining fines, officials said.

The rupture was caused because two sections of pipe were not installed properly, KSPC found.

When LG&E and KPSC investigated the accident, they discovered that the coupling between the two pipes had not been installed in accordance with LG&E’s own requirements, officials said.


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