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Feds unveil pipeline safety program

By the CNN Wire Staff
A pipeline is blamed in a 2010 blast in San Bruno, California, that killed eight people and destroyed 37 homes.
A pipeline is blamed in a 2010 blast in San Bruno, California, that killed eight people and destroyed 37 homes.
  • Transporation Secretary Ray LaHood presses pipeline firms to upgrade aging delivery systems
  • The move comes in response to recent deadly explosions in California and Pennsylvania
  • The administration wants to increase fines for pipeline safety violations, among other things
  • The Transportation Department will convene a pipeline safety forum on April 18

Washington (CNN) -- Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Monday that the Obama administration will push legislation designed to overhaul and upgrade America's aging oil and gas pipeline network.

The initative is partly a response to a series of deadly pipeline explosions, including one last year in San Bruno, California, that killed eight people and destroyed 37 homes. A February pipeline explosion in Allentown, Pennsylvania, resulted in the deaths of five people.

San Bruno's faulty pipeline was installed in 1956; Allentown's was installed in 1928.

During a news conference in Allentown, LaHood called on the major pipeline companies to conduct a review of their oil and gas delivery systems to identify the lines with the highest risk. He also urged them to speed up the most critical repair work.

"People deserve to know that they can turn on the lights, the heat or the stove without endangering their families and neighbors," LaHood said. "The safety of the American public is my top priority, and I am taking on this critical issue to avoid future tragedies we have seen in Allentown and around the country."

Among other things, the administration wants to increase the maximum civil penalties for pipeline violations from $100,000 per day to $250,000 per day. It also wants to increase fines from $1 million to $2.5 million for a series of violations.

The administration also would like to boost the number of safety inspectors and improve data reporting to increase the likelihood of early identification of possible pipeline safety risks.

The Transportation Department is planning to convene a pipeline safety forum on April 18 in Washington.

The United States has more than 2.5 million miles of pipelines used for the delivery of oil and gas, according to the Transporation Department.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve and Mike Ahlers contributed to this report.

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