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Colonial Pipeline Could Face Fine After Leak In North Carolina

Tanker trucks are parked near the entrance of Colonial Pipeline Company Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. The operator of the nation’s largest fuel pipeline has confirmed it paid $4.4 million to a gang of hackers who broke into its computer systems. That's according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. Colonial Pipeline’s CEO Joseph Blount told the Journal that he authorized the payment after the ransomware attack because the company didn’t know the extent of the damage. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Chris Carlson/AP
Tanker trucks are parked near the entrance of Colonial Pipeline Company Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C.

Colonial Pipeline faces a fine of $200,000 a day if it fails to improve the way it detects leaks in its U.S. pipeline system following a massive gasoline leak in North Carolina, according to an agreement with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Colonial is under an order to find and use a better leak detection system across its entire network, citing several newly disclosed leaks over the years, The Charlotte Observer reported.

Meanwhile, State Sen. Natasha Marcus, D-Huntersville, said Colonial faces separate potential action by the state Department of Environmental Quality for the August 2020 leak in Mecklenburg County’s Oehler Nature Preserve.

The spill was among the worst in the state, Michael Regan, then-NCDEQ secretary, said in September. Regan now heads the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The company eventually reported that almost 18 times more gasoline leaked from its pipe than its original estimate, according to the June 15 settlement with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Colonial said in a statement that it began to “implement learnings from the Huntersville incident almost immediately after it occurred.”

"The consent agreement outlines a number of steps that Colonial has agreed to undertake and we appreciate the opportunity to settle this matter following consultation with PHMSA,” Colonial said.

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