Rule Changes, Proposals Could Prove Significant For 2012 Underground Market

Annual Regulatory Outlook
By Stephen Barlas, Washington Editor | February 2012, Vol. 67 No. 2

The One-Call and excavation damage provisions included in the new pipeline safety bill passed by Congress in December will trigger a number of state and federal responses in 2012. However, a rule allowing the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to impose civil penalties on excavators -- ordered by the 2006 pipeline safety bill but never finalized -- would be even more significant. A proposed rule moving that requirement forward is expected this year, finally, perhaps as early as this winter.

Companies doing underground construction would also be affected by a proposed rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on silica. The agency sent a draft rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in February 2011. A proposed rule tightening the construction worker exposure standard is expected at any time.

Longer-term regulatory actions will also get prep time in 2012. The Environmental Protection Agency is gathering data and comments for a proposed rule it plans to issue in 2014 requiring shale gas producers to pretreat wastewater that is trucked to public sewage plants from well sites.

CWA/DW funding at risk
Moving to the congressional arena, 2012 will see a tightening of budgets for programs such as the EPA's wastewater and drinking water construction grants.