One-Call Regulatory Updates

New Report Updates Latest Developments By States
By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | April 2014, Vol. 69 No. 4

“Many of the laws enacted last year clarify terminology of existing laws; strengthen enforcement of One-Call regulations; in some cases increasing fines for non-compliance upgrading definitions of facilities covered; and eliminating certain exemptions,” said Kelly. “In some instances, legislation was encouraged by the prospect of losing loss of federal funds. There’s really not much ‘new’ in changes and new legislation, but a focus on doing what has been documented to be effective.”

Historically, said Kelly, it has been documented that enforcement with realistic fines encourages compliance which, in turn, reduces damages.

“States serious about damage prevention,” Kelly continued, “have been implementing effective enforcement programs for the last 10 to 20 years – Arizona, Virginia, New York and Minnesota were early leaders. Tying federal funds to local One-Call programs is causing states that previously were unable to pass damage prevention to place a higher priority on effective legislation and enforcement.”

Examples of 2013 changes cited in the report include:

• North Carolina – approved legislation that is almost a complete rewrite of the old law, updating most definitions, requiring mandatory membership of facility operators, stipulating that excavator costs for compliance will not be charged to utility operators or vice-versa, and requiring operators to maintain a notification center for the sole purpose of providing the services required by the statute. It will become effective on Oct. 1, 2014.
• Arkansas – raised penalties, changed definitions of “Operator” and “Person” to more standard definitions, clarified which underground facilities are covered and removed exemptions for giving notice of excavation when working in a highway right-of- way.
• Washington State – implemented locating of sewer laterals, mandatory membership, damage reporting by excavator and utility operator, notification to transmission pipeline operators by state or local permitting agency of planned construction activity within 100 feet of a transmission pipeline right-of-way, and established a dispute resolution board.

Kelly describes pending One-Call legislation as backside efforts to clean up laws and regulations. Some states, he said, lag behind because they have become bogged down in details such as who is responsible for enforcement and cite lack of manpower for implementing their programs and are taking steps to correct the situation.

Kelly points out that the report is a snapshot in time, not the full picture, with legislation always subject to change.