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Ex-pipeline worker pleads guilty to violations

MILWAUKEE (AP) — A former employee of Shell Pipeline Co. pleaded guilty Wednesday to safety violations in a jet fuel leak at General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee that cost millions of dollars to clean up.

Corrosion monitor Randy Jones, 44, of Houma, La., pleaded guilty to failing to conduct regular voltage readings and an annual survey of a pipeline used to transport jet fuel at the airport, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Jones also pleaded guilty to making a false statement.

As part of a plea agreement, Jones admitted that he knowingly failed to conduct required safety tests between January and December 2011 and submitted false data to the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration indicating the required test had been conducted.

In January 2012, a hole was discovered in the pipeline at Mitchell Airport after jet fuel began showing up in soil surrounding the airport and in a nearby creek. Shell reported about 9,000 gallons of jet fuel leaked. The response and cleanup cost for the spill was about $19.3 million.

Under requirements of the Pipeline Safety Act, buried or submerged metal pipelines must be protected to prevent corrosion, the government said. That involves using a device called a rectifier that applies a negative current to soil near the pipeline to keep corrosion away from the pipe. The pipeline operator is required to conduct regular readings of the voltage generated from a rectifier and conduct an annual survey of the pipeline.

Jones worked for Shell from 1992 through 2012. From 2010 until 2012, Jones was employed as a corrosion coordinator and was responsible for Shell pipelines serving Mitchell and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

Under the plea agreement, Jones faces a maximum prison sentence of five years on each of the three counts. Sentencing is set for April 30. His defense attorney did not immediately return a call Wednesday.

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