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Pipeline Safety Legislation Moves Through House

December 10, 2011
Legislation that that enhances pipeline safety and reliability in transporting our nation’s utility resources had previously passed two committees in the House. Now, newly agreed upon language to amend the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 (H.R. 2845), will reauthorize federal pipeline safety programs through fiscal year 2015. Pipeline safety and the prevention of underground facility damages has been a top priority for AGC and this legislation is a significant step forward in the process to provide greater regulatory certainty and predictability for construction contractors. The bill does a few things of interest to excavators. First, for violations, it increases the penalty ceiling from $100K to $250K and removes the ability to pay from penalty considerations. 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. Finally, the bill calls for a study on the impact of excavation damage on pipeline safety, focusing on the comparison of the frequency and severity of different types of excavation damage incidents with regards to the various exemptions to the one-call notification system requirements in each State. Previous version of this study focused exclusively on 3rd party excavation damage, but AGC called for the study to include all types of damages to be more comprehensive in nature. The House may consider the legislation as early as next week, and with the Senate bill already passed through unanimous consent, this may be in time to send a bill to the President’s desk before the end of the year. For more information, contact Scott Berry at (703) 837-5321 or berrys@agc.org.
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