The U.S. EPA has levied a $34 million fine against the Colonial Pipeline Company, the largest civil penalty the agency has doled out in its 32-year history. The company owns a 5,500-mile underground pipeline that snakes through 14 states on its way from Texas to New York; the fine is for violating the federal Clean Water Act with seven spills along that pipeline, involving a total of 1.45 million gallons of oil. The largest spill, in South Carolina in 1996, sent nearly 1 million gallons of oil down the Reedy River, killing 35,000 fish. The EPA said the spills were caused by gross negligence, including pipeline corrosion, mechanical damage, and human errors. Unlike money charged for damages, which is used to compensate for environmental harm, the fine levied in this case was punitive. “There is a price to being a consistent violator,” said Thomas Sansonetti, assistant attorney general for the environment division of the Justice Department.