HARRISBURG – PA One Call is set to expire at the end of the year unless the law is reauthorized. 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.
While the program has been a success, legislation recently approved by the state Senate would expand PA One Call and increase public safety according to Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20th).
“By every measure, One Call has worked as intended. It is a sensible approach to public safety, neither high-cost nor high on intrusive mandates,” Baker stated. “But we have an opportunity to extend its reach.”
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.
“When things go wrong, when there are power outages or service disruptions, when there is environmental damage, when there are injuries or fatalities, these costs add up very fast and can be considerable,” said Baker. “So the effort put toward avoiding these problems is well worth it.”
Chief among the changes proposed is assigning enforcement powers to the Public Utility Commission, a shift Baker believes makes sense because the agency already regulates the utilities participating in PA One Call.
Exemptions for extracting natural resources are removed, including the construction of Class 1 gathering pipelines located in more rural areas, where significant work is occurring.
Other improvements include mandatory reporting of all underground facility damages, and a mapping requirement to record abandoned lines and identify new lines moving forward, all of which are critical in providing the information needed to avoid hits, decrease damage and prevent fatalities.
“The purpose of this bill is to reduce the number of problems encountered,” Baker said. “By implementing some constructive safety measures, we are acting to help prevent catastrophe.”
The measure, Senate Bill 1235, is under consideration in the House.
Andrew M. Seder
District Communications/Constituent Services for Pike and Wayne Counties
Office of Senator Lisa Baker
2512 Route 6
Hawley, PA 18428