On Tuesday, October 16th, 2018 Governor Carney welcomed legislators, members of the Public Service Commission, the Delaware Public Advocate, and various stakeholders to sign an important piece of legislation which relates to underground utility safety.
A few years ago the U.S. Department of Transportation found Delaware to be non-compliant with enforcement actions for excavation and marking violations for underground facilities. This finding provided the State with 5 years to correct any deficiencies in its program, or face a major funding cut and the eventual relinquishing of the state’s pipeline safety program. Since the non-compliance finding, staff members of the Delaware Public Service Commission have been working to pass legislation which would bring Delaware back into compliance and create a safer environment for utilities, excavators, and citizens of this state.
This legislation was the first step toward compliance and requires both the company (operator of the facilities) and the Utility Notification Center to notify the Public Service Commission of any excavation damage of which they are aware. It also provides for the Public Service Commission to review the violation and to assess penalties that are consistent with the circumstances and gravity of the violation.
What this bill does?
1. Creates a notification process if a utility line is damaged
2. Allows the PSC to assess penalties for damaged lines or refer to the Attorney General’s Office depending on the circumstance and gravity of the violation.
Why this bill?
1. Strengthens public safety by creating a record of utility line strikes
2. Allows PSC or Attorney General’s office to hold violators accountable
3. Ensures that the Delaware PSC maintains oversight of gas pipeline damage prevention in Delaware, as opposed to Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) taking over that part of the program
Over the last year, the Delaware Public Service Commission has worked with Miss Utility of Delmarva, Delmarva Power & Light, Chesapeake Utilities, Comcast, Verizon, and other stakeholders to craft what is now law. There were roundtable discussions, meetings, calls, and countless emails aimed at making meaningful compromise, while maintaining the intent and integrity of the bill. The Delaware PSC simply put, could not have done this without the stakeholder’s input and compromise. We also could not have done this without the leadership of Senate Environmental and Natural Resources Committee Chair, Senator Harris McDowell, and House Energy Committee Chair, Representative Trey Paradee. And lastly, Senate Bill 189 would not have become law without Governor John C. Carney. Many thanks to all who were involved in this process, which we are confident will increase public safety in Delaware.
*Note: This legislation was signed privately by Governor Carney on 8/29/18 due to a scheduling conflict which resulted in the rescheduling of the ceremony for 10/16/18.