Operator of Pipeline in Blast Didn't Follow Regulations: Report

A Houston company did not adequately mark the path of a buried natural gas pipeline that exploded into a fireball that killed one worker who accidentally struck it during excavation, according to the Texas Railroad Commission.

After investigating the June 7 explosion in Johnson County that also injured eight workers, the agency found that Enterprise Products Operating LLC of Houston violated several state regulations, according to its report released Tuesday. The commission, which regulates oil and gas production and transmission, also said Enterprise did not provide personnel evaluation procedures to make sure employees had adequate knowledge of GPS equipment used in locating pipelines.

Fines could be $10,000 per day per violation, commission spokeswoman Ramona Nye said.

Enterprise was ordered to take action immediately to correct the violations and submit a schedule and plan to the commission by Sept. 29, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

The commission also found that Enterprise committed "very serious violations" of state regulations designed to prevent damage to pipelines, including failure to properly communicate with the excavator. The commission suggested a potential settlement could lead to a $120,000 fine in regard to violations of those regulations.

Enterprise said it will decide how to proceed after evaluating the commission's findings. In a statement, the company said it "has a comprehensive training program in place, but in keeping with our ongoing commitment to safety we will determine what, if any, enhancements should be made to our procedures."

The agency also found that Oklahoma-based C&H Power Line Construction, which was drilling to install power poles that day, violated a commission rule by not making sure the area was clear of pipelines and also failed to give a notification center a second notice before digging.

The commission said it usually offers a settlement in such a case, so C&H would pay a fine of $25,500.

C&H Power Line officials did not immediately return a call on Wednesday.

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