Lawmakers Hear Ways to Reduce Pipeline Failure Incidents

By Matthew Harwood

There was unanimous consensus across the panel that the federally-mandated 811, or Call Before You Dig, program was necessary to avoid further excavation accidents where projects that require digging accidentally rupture underground pipelines. Excavation projects, typically when homeowners or contractors break ground on private property, are a leading cause of pipeline accidents involving death or injury, said Quarterman.

According to the program's Web site, even homeowners building a deck should call the number to identify any utility lines running underneath their property and have them marked before breaking ground.

"Since the Call 811 campaign was launched, there has been approximately a 40 percent reduction in safety-related incidents," said Rocco D’Alessandro, executive vice president of operations for Nicor Gas.

D'Alessandro,  Weimar, and Tim Felt, president and chief executive officer for the Colonial Pipeline Company, all called for PHMSA and Congress to compel states to reduce the exemptions to the 811 campaign and penalize violators.

"Many states have exemptions to their damage prevention 'one call' rules for a variety of stakeholders including municipalities, state transportation departments, railroads, farmers, and property owners," Weimar said in his statement for the record. "We believe such exemptions, except in cases of emergencies, are unwarranted for municipalities, state transportations departments, and the railroads, and urge both Congress and PHMSA to make it clear that these types of exemptions are not acceptable in an effective damage prevention program."

Weimar also called on Congress to mandate pipeline operators to extend installation of excess flow valves to multi-family and commercial properties when appropriate.

D'Alessandro, however, believes the single-family home requirement is enough.

"Due to the inherent uncertainties and complexities associated with service lines to multiplefamily dwellings, commercial and industrial customers, however, it is inadvisable to attempt mandatory nation-wide installation of EFVs beyond the single-family residential class," he said in his statement.

♦ Photo by jakesmome/Flickr


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