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Pipelines continue to capture the interest, or ire, of the government as U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called for pipeline owners and operators to conduct a comprehensive review of their lines and accelerate critical repair and replacement work.

LaHood called for this review while he was in Allentown, Pa., where a natural gas pipeline explosion killed five people in February.

Hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil flowed into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River last summer after a pipeline owned by Canada-based Enbridge Energy Partners ruptured near Marshall, MI. It led to months of clean up and repair work before the company was able to restart the pipeline.

That incident, along with others, raised bigger questions about pipeline safety.

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Enbridge spokeswoman Lorraine Grymala said the Transportation Department request “is exactly aligned to what we’re already doing.”

LaHood is pushing for legislation to increase the maximum penalty for pipeline violations from $100,000 a day to $250,000 a day, and from $1 million for a series of violations to $2.5 million.

He asked Congress to give his department — which oversees pipeline safety and enforcement — authority to close regulatory loopholes, add inspectors and strengthen requirements for risk management, safety and data reporting.

“People deserve to know that they can turn on the lights, the heat, or the stove without endangering their families and neighbors,” LaHood said.

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