On August 29, 2018, Senate Bill 189, which relates to the Underground Utility Damage and Safety Act was signed into law. A few years ago the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) evaluated Delaware to be inadequate in its compliance with 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 198, Subpart D- State Damage Prevention Enforcement Programs. This finding provided the State with 5 years to correct any deficiencies in its program, or PHMSA would assume the role of enforcing 49 CFR Part 196- Protection of Underground Pipelines From Excavation Activity. Since the non-compliance finding, staff members of the Delaware Public Service Commission worked to pass legislation which would bring Delaware 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 the Operators of underground facilities, except Operators of underground gas pipeline facilities, to notify the Public Service Commission of any excavation damage of which they are aware when the damage exceeds $3000 in value. For Operators of underground gas pipeline facilities, they must notify the Public Service Commission for all excavation damages to their facilities, regardless of the value of the damage. 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. Senate Bill 189 essentially created a notification process if an underground utility line is damage, 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, and allows anyone (including excavators) to report a violation of Delaware’s Underground Utility Damage Prevention and Safety Act to the Public Service Commission.
On October 22, 2019 Delaware Public Service Commission Staff opened Docket No. 19-0713 for the purpose of promulgating regulations governing the enforcement of the Underground Damage Prevention and Safety Act, and committed to having proposed regulations to the Commission by June 3, 2020. On April 27, 2020, Commission Staff held a meeting with interested stakeholders to discuss the content of the proposed regulations via WebEx, due to COVID-19 restrictions. On October 21, 2020 the Commission completed it’s rule-making process by adopting the proposed regulations, which will be published in the December 1, 2020 Edition of the Delaware Register of Regulations.
U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), Pipeline Safety Stakeholder Communications
The USDOT PHMSA has made available data for the State of Delaware to enable interested citizens to learn about pipelines and pipeline safety within the State. The data presented has been gathered by PHMSA from yearly data submitted and audited from the State of Delaware Public Service Commission (PSC) Pipeline Safety Program and Miss Utility of Delmarva (Dial 811).
Related Topics: CFR Part 198 Subpart D, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), Report Damage, Senate Bill 189, underground facilities, underground pipeline facilities, Violation of Underground Utility Damage Prevention and Safety Act