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Koch Industries Faces Lawsuit

Koch Industries, which has settled lawsuits in recent years for tens of millions of dollars, faces a new class-action lawsuit over operation of its pipelines in Texas and other states.

The legal action, filed in federal court in Texas, seeks to force the oil and gas company to inspect, test, maintain and repair thousands of miles of natural gas and hazardous-liquid pipelines, Reuters reported.

The lawsuit alleges that the pipelines pose an immediate danger of leaks, fires or explosions and that federal regulators have failed to monitor them. A spokesman for Wichita, Kan.-based Koch said the case has no merit.

Marc Palazzo told Reuters the company "is among the safest pipeline operators, and that pipelines are the safest way to transport oil and gas."

The lawsuit was filed by P.D. Hamilton, who oversees a family trust that owns ranch property near Groveton, in East Texas, that is crossed by a Koch pipeline. Hamilton's lawyers want Koch to spend $11 billion to $19 billion on pipeline improvements over five years. The lawsuit doesn't list specific monetary damages.

In the past three years, Koch has settled several high-dollar lawsuits. In 1998, it agreed to pay commercial fishermen $10.5 million after a pipeline spill near Corpus Christi.

In 1999, a jury ordered Koch to pay $296 million to the father of a teenager killed in a pipeline explosion in Kaufman County. The company appealed and settled that case and a related claim by the father of another teenager killed in the blast, both for undisclosed amounts.

Last year, Koch agreed to pay $35 million to settle lawsuits filed by the federal and state government for oil pipeline spills into Texas streams and bays from 1990 to 1997.
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