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Cameron LNG's first LNG train came online earlier this year. It's the fourth-largest LNG export facility in the country.

Houston-based Cameron LNG's export facility in southwest Louisiana, which failed to report a liquefied natural gas leak just one day after it began production, won't be required to pay a fine after it settled with federal regulators.

The settlement downgraded the proposed $41,600 civil penalty to zero and will serve as a warning for Cameron LNG, records show.

Cameron LNG was slated to have a hearing this week over the penalty levied by the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration regarding the unreported leak.

The company contested the agency's allegations and fine in mid-August and requested a hearing for Dec. 3. The company outlined why it did not commit violations, but most of the document was marked confidential so those arguments are unknown. By mid-November, the company requested a postponement of the hearing and began negotiating a settlement with the federal regulator, records show. 

"The parties have successfully narrowed the issues in dispute and Cameron LNG withdraws its request for a hearing,"  Brett Snyder, attorney at Blank Rome LLP in Washington D.C., who works on behalf of Cameron LNG, wrote in a letter filed several days before documentation to prepare for the hearing was due.

"PHMSA Southwest Region reviewed the circumstances and supporting documents involved in the case and determined that a finding of violation is not warranted," Snyder continued.

Meanwhile, Cameron LNG has agreed to comply with a proposed compliance order put forth by the federal agency.

"Cameron LNG appreciates PHMSA's willingness to engage in productive settlement discussions," Snyder wrote. 

After a request for comments, Cameron LNG submitted the same prepared statement to The Advocate as it did when the fine was proposed. 

"Cameron LNG takes safety and compliance very seriously, and our excellent safety and environmental protection track record is a testament to that commitment. As previously noted, we are working closely with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration office to resolve the matter."

Cameron LNG has been building the $10 billion facility in Hackberry for several years and began producing liquefied natural gas on May 14.

Federal inspectors visited the Hackberry LNG facility on May 20 and issued a notice of a violation and possible civil penalty in late July. 

Companies are required to notify the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration if there are any incidents no more than one hour after it is discovered. 

Cameron LNG released some LNG from a flanged joint connection during startup operations in May but also before it began operations in January.

In January, Cameron LNG operators noticed there was an intermittent LNG leak from pipes in the plant, the agency said. Again on May 15, employees saw LNG dripping near an isolation valve on unit 1. It was not immediately clear how much LNG was released since the documentation was not filed. 

The company didn't consider the incident significant and therefore didn't report it, the federal agency said. 

The maximum penalty per violation per day is $213,268 and no more than $2.1 million total. 

Cameron LNG is jointly owned by affiliates of Sempra LNG, Total, Mitsui & Co. Ltd. and Japan LNG Investment LLC, a joint venture of Mitsubishi Corp. and Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha. Sempra Energy indirectly owns 50.2% of Cameron LNG.

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Email Kristen Mosbrucker at kmosbrucker@theadvocate.com.