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July 6, 2018

Effort is to improve public safety by reducing the unacceptably high number of dangerous dig-in incidents involving natural gas pipelines

Kentucky Press News Service

FRANKFORT – Effective July 14 the Kentucky Public Service Commission will begin pursuing enforcement actions against excavators who violate Kentucky’s call-before-you-dig law and damage natural gas or hazardous liquid lines.

Under a change to the law, the PSC will be able to impose financial penalties if violations are uncovered, a PSC news release said.

Information on the statutory changes and the PSC investigation and enforcement process can be found online at https://psc.ky.gov/PSC_WebNet/GasExcavationDamage.aspx.

Ky. PSC Chairman Michael J. Schmitt Ky. PSC Chairman Michael J. Schmitt PSC Chairman Michael Schmitt said that the stepped-up enforcement of the call-before-you-dig requirements reflects a greater emphasis nationally and at the state level on pipeline safety.

“This new law brings Kentucky into line with federal standards, which the PSC enforces under an agreement with the US Department of Transportation,” Schmitt said in the news release. “More importantly, it is an effort to significantly improve public safety by reducing the unacceptably high number of dangerous dig-in incidents involving natural gas pipelines.”

Like every other state, Kentucky has a statewide 811 service that, by law, must be called at least two working days prior to beginning excavation. The advance notification is intended to allow ample time for utility lines to be located and marked so that excavation can proceed safely. Natural gas providers and hazardous liquid pipeline operators are required to provide the location of their lines to the 811 center.

In 2017, there were more than 1,200 incidents in Kentucky in which a gas line was damaged during an excavation – or about 23 per week. Many involved a failure to call 811 before beginning excavation.

Excavators, including homeowners, could be penalized for not calling 811, ignoring location markers or using improper excavation methods. Operators could be penalized for not responding to requests to locate lines or for improperly or inaccurately locating or marking underground facilities.

Penalties are up to $1,250 for a first violation, $2,000 for a second violation, and $4,000 for subsequent violations.

“Not every incident in which a gas line is hit will result in a violation being issued and a penalty assessed, especially if 811 has been called,” said John Lyons, director of the PSC Division of Inspections, which will investigate incidents. “However, a failure to call 811 will trigger an enforcement action.”

About 240 entities operate natural gas or hazardous liquid pipelines in Kentucky. They include local gas distribution companies fully regulated by the PSC and municipal natural gas providers and other entities, such as housing authorities, that are regulated by the PSC for safety only.

 

 

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