The Iowa Senate this week passed a bill that would dramatically increase state penalties for pipeline safety violations.
Under current law, the Iowa Utilities Board can levy up to half a million dollars in civil fines to an Iowa pipeline owner for a spill or other safety violation. The bill would double that, so an Iowa pipeline owner could face up to a million dollar fine. The Iowa Utilities Board has never flevied the maximum, $500,000 fine to a pipeline owner before, but Senator Brian Schoenjahn, a Democrat from Aurelia, says with national attention focused on pipeline safety, the Iowa Utilities Board asked for the higher fines.
“It’s simply making sure that they’re within the confines of the law and they have the authority to do what they need to do, just in case we get an incident,” Schoenjahn says. “It’s just covering their bets.”
The state stands to lose several thousand dollars in federal grants if the higher penalties are not in place.
The Iowa Utilities Board has jurisdiction over intra-state pipelines, in other words pipelines that begin and end inside the state’s borders. The federal government has authority over pipelines that stretch from state to state and into Canada or Mexico.
(This story was updated at 6:07 p.m. to indicate the IUB has never levied a maximum fine.)