New Federal Regulations

For State Damage Prevention Programs and Excavators

Excavation damage is the leading cause of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipeline incidents. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has issued new regulations for both state damage prevention programs (part 198) and for excavators (part 196). More effective enforcement of state excavation damage prevention laws, such as the requirement to ‘‘Call Before You Dig,’’ is a key to reducing pipeline excavation damage incidents. Though all states have a damage prevention program, some states may not adequately enforce their state law. PHMSA developed specific criteria and procedures for determining whether a state’s enforcement of its excavation damage prevention laws is adequate. There are two basic questions PHMSA will ask:

  1. Does the state have the authority to enforce its state excavation damage prevention law?

  2. Has the state designated a state agency or other body as the authority responsible for enforcement of the state excavation damage prevention law?

If the answer to either of these questions is “no,” then enforcement at the state level is inadequate. If the answer is “yes,” then the following additional criteria will be reviewed:

    • Is the state assessing civil penalties and other appropriate sanctions?
    • How does the enforcement authority learn about damages?
    • How does the enforcement authority determine who is the responsible party?
    • What are the specific reporting requirements in the law?
    • Does the state law limit exemptions for excavators?

If PHMSA determines the enforcement of a state’s damage prevention laws is inadequate, then PHMSA may conduct enforcement proceedings against an excavator who violates the federal excavation standards. Both civil and criminal penalties may be imposed, including fines up to $200,000 per day and jail time.

Additional information, including the new federal standards for excavators, can be found on PHMSA ’s website: http://phmsa.dot.gov/pipeline/safety-awareness-and-outreach/excavator-enforcement