Oklahoma-based Williams Partners, Inc. is one of the largest pipeline operators in the United States, operating approximately 15,000 miles of interstate natural gas pipelines, and has one of the best safety records. But incidents occasionally happen.

According to a report by Pennsylvania's Lancaster Newspapers, Williams Partners and three of its subsidiaries topped the chart of fines paid to the state regulator last year, closing 2013 with penalties totaling $388,694.

Because of this fact, and following a series of violations detected, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has started a federal investigation into the company's safety practices.

These facts are of serious concern to residents of Lancaster County, Pa., as a proposed $2.1 billion natural gas pipeline operated by Williams Partners will run through Lancaster County if it gets approved. Plans for its completion indicate that the pipeline could be in action by mid-2017.

Whether residents' fears are valid remains to be seen. But regulators state that pipelines are the safest way to transport fuels and incidents involving pipes are extremely rare. Moreover, Williams Partners is a huge corporation, with a large number of subsidiaries, operating in various subsectors of the industry, and none of the recent incidents that led to a fine were related to its pipeline business, Lancaster Online reported.

The company intends to begin service on the pipeline by July 1, 2017, it told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.