Public Utility Commission to enforce 8-1-1

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The Public Utility Commission released a statement today, praising the General Assembly’s approval and implementation of improving the Pennsylvania One Call System.  The PUC commended the assembly for their efforts to “reduce the number of hits on underground utility infrastructure.”  

State law notates that businesses and the public are to call the Pennsylvania One Call System at least three days prior to excavating to avoid hitting underground utilities, but some facilities are exempt from either marking the lines or requesting the marks, causing big problems.  Some of those problems include high-priced repairs and life-threatening damages.

“There are about 6,000 reported hits on underground facilities across Pennsylvania every year, which means that a pipeline or other vital utility system is struck once every 20 minutes during the average workday,” says Commissioner John F. Coleman Jr.  “Our goal from day one is to cut the number of those incidents by eliminating exemptions and strengthening enforcement, as part of a focused program to reduce risks to our contractors, utility workers and residents.”

Those hits to utility pipelines can mean more cost to all customers.  “Hits on underground utility systems are not only a hazard to workers and bystanders, but also result in service interruptions, possible environmental damage and costly repairs to damaged lines – which drives up the cost of utility service for everyone,” said Commissioner David W. Sweet. “The improvements to the PA One Call law are the result of a collaborative effort by legislators, contractors, utilities, municipalities and other stakeholders, all with a shared goal of making Pennsylvania a safer place to live and work.”

“Speaking from my experience in the industry and as a farmer, I am acutely aware of the potential dangers of underground lines and the dependence workers in the field have in knowing where hazards lie,” PUC Vice Chairman Andrew Place told legislation. “Strengthening this program will impact both public safety and public confidence in energy and utility development across Pennsylvania.”

Legislation responded positively and almost unanimously.  In both the house and the senate, there was only one vote lost to Bill 242 to reexamine the exemptions of the PA One Call law and reinforce its use.  Also in the bill, the Public Utility Commission was put in charge of enforcing the use of the PA One Call system, and they say they expect to reduce the number of incidents by at least 50% in the next five years.  So, if you’re thinking of digging, call 8-1-1 first.

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