HARRISBURG – Sen. Lisa Baker, R-20th, is renewing her push for legislation to ensure greater public safety by extending and expanding PA One Call provisions.
Also known as 811, the communications system helps prevent damage to underground utilities and avoid tragedies by requiring companies and people to “Call Before You Dig.” That information is then used to determine if there are any lines at-risk in the area, so they can be marked prior to excavation.
“By every measure, 811 has worked as intended. It is a sensible approach to public safety without a high cost,” Baker said. “But we have an opportunity to extend its reach and to reduce the risk of catastrophes, injuries or deadly accidents.”
Last year, the legislature granted a one-year extension of the program, but Baker says a long-term fix is warranted. Her plan was approved by the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee today.
Chief among the changes proposed in SB 242 is assigning enforcement powers to the Public Utility Commission (PUC), a shift Baker believes makes sense because the agency already regulates the utilities participating in PA One Call. Currently the Department of Labor and Industry is responsible for enforcement.
Exemptions for extracting natural resources are removed under this bill, including the construction of Class 1 gathering pipelines located in more rural areas, where significant work is occurring. Other improvements include a mapping requirement to record abandoned lines and identify new lines moving forward, and mandatory reporting of all underground facility damages.
“The intent of this bill is to reduce the number of problems encountered,” Baker said. “By implementing some common sense safety measures, we are acting to help prevent catastrophes.”
It is estimated there are more than 6,000 “hits” each year, approximately half involving natural gas lines. These incidents jeopardize the public, place workers at risk, and compromise infrastructure.
Preventing this unnecessary damage will provide increased safety and reduce unnecessary costs for all parties.