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Pipeline Safety Bill Working Its Way Through the Senate

August 3, 2011
The bill to reauthorize the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA), which was introduced in the Senate in February by Sen Lautenberg (D-NJ), currently has 5 cosponsors and passed out of committee in mid/late June. It is awaiting action on the Senate floor, though time for it has yet to be scheduled. The bill does a few things of interest to excavators: First, it creates a new category of violations called “major consequence” violations. These would be damages that result in a fatality or cause $250K in environmental damages. For these violations, the bill increases the penalty ceiling from $100K to $250K. Second, the bill creates new criteria that a one-call must meet to be eligible for federal grant money:
  • appropriate participation by all underground facility operators, including all government operators;
  • appropriate participation by all excavators, including all government and contract excavators;
  • flexible and effective enforcement under State law with respect to participation in, and use of, one-call notification systems.
Third, the bill also bans one-calls from exempting municipalities, State agencies, or their contractors from their one-call notification system requirements. These provisions would take effect 2 years after the bill becomes law. The bill is unlikely to see floor action soon, as the debt ceiling and appropriations battles are going to claim the lion’s share of time in both the House and the Senate. No companion legislation has been introduced in the House as of yet, nor is any planned before Fall. For more information, please contact Scott Berry at (703) 837-5321 or berrys@agc.org.
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