Tougher Requirements For Excavators Likely In 2013

Annual Regulatory Outlook
By Stephen Barlas, Washington Editor | February 2013, Vol. 68 No. 2

Congress did, however, establish a new funding source in 2012 for construction of a new national, interoperable public safety broadband system, thanks to the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. It created a new private/public authority called FirstNet. It will supervise the creation of a nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN) based on a single, national network architecture. Congress provided $135 million for state planning grants and $2 billion for eventual deployment and operation of the network. An additional $5 billion is expected to be available based on Federal Communications Commission sale of current TV spectrum. The FirstNet board held its first meeting last fall. It is now in the process of creating the network architecture. The $135 million in planning grants to states will probably be dispersed this year. But actual construction grants for the laying of fiber may not be forthcoming until at least 2015.

EPA leadership change
There is nothing as major as the PHMSA rule on the horizon at the Environmental Protection Agency. Lisa Jackson, the EPA administrator in Obama's first term, is gone. Jackson got good marks from environmentalists. But in reality, her tenure was marked by regulatory action in a very narrow range focused on air emissions, and even there, mostly aimed at electric utilities who use coal. Don't look for precipitous action from her successor in "underground" areas such as Superfund, waste disposal on land or in water or groundwater contamination. The EPA has a study ongoing into potential groundwater contamination from shale gas extraction. But any final recommendations are years away, and there is no telling whether any report will support digging restrictions anyway.

There is one exception to the above analysis, and it is a relatively minor one. The EPA is nearing release of two separate, but related, guidance documents on how state and federal regulatory programs should evaluate underground chemical leaks which, via "vapor intrusion," foul the indoor air of residential and industrial buildings. There will be two separate guidance documents, apparently. One will focus on leaks from underground storage tanks (UST) containing petroleum. The other concentrates on leaks into soils from such things as pipeline petroleum spills and above-ground storage tanks. The UST guidance doesn't concern most affected parties because it accounts for the fact that those tanks are generally buried deep below the surface and that any leaks are attenuated by the soil. Not so for above-ground and pipeline leaks.