WASHINGTON, D.C. – Three members of the U.S. House, including two representing California districts served by PG&E, today announced that they co-signed a letter calling on several national organizations to raise awareness about the importance of safe digging practices to avoid the leading cause of pipeline accidents in the United States – excavation damage.
The letter was signed by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), the chairman and ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo), the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Healthcare, and Entitlements. Their letter called on the National Governors Association (NGA), the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) to raise awareness about the importance of calling 811 before anyone begins a digging project.
“Digging into underground utility lines is largely avoidable and therefore needs a cohesive call to action from elected officials, industry and national organizations in order to encourage real awareness,” Denham said. “I’m proud to stand up with my colleagues, our home energy utility and the natural gas industry to advance safe digging advocacy at the state level in order to promote safe communities.”
In their letter to NGA, NCSL and NARUC, Denham, Brown and Speier call for leadership on this important issue, noting that every citizen must “be encouraged to ‘know what’s below, and call 811 before digging’ for safer and stronger communities across the country.” 811 is a free service that provides important information on where utilities exist beneath excavation areas. The rules and regulations governing safe digging practices vary from state to state, so awareness and advocacy at the state level is especially important.
“A utility line is damaged once every eight minutes in the United States due to excavation,” Speier said. “Having the proper resources and information about safe digging practices can save lives and property, and transform the largest threat to our pipelines into one of the easiest and most effective ways to keep our communities safe.”
PG&E delivers gas and electric service to 15 million people in Northern and Central California, including customers in the home districts of Denham and Speier. This month, PG&E officials participated in events in Oakland, San Carlos, Madera and Vallejo with first responders and community leaders to promote the importance of calling 811 before a digging project.
“Last year alone, PG&E experienced more than 1,000 incidents where a third party dug into our natural gas pipelines or electric power lines without calling 811,” said Nick Stavropoulos, PG&E’s executive vice president of Gas Operations. “We appreciate first-hand the efforts of Representatives Denham, Brown and Speier to raise awareness about the importance of calling 811 before digging.”
Also supporting the efforts of Denham, Brown and Speier are national natural gas industry organizations American Gas Association and Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, which regularly work with their member companies to promote safe digging practices.
While April is recognized as National Safe Digging Month, the www.call811.com web site is a year-round resource for more information about 811 and the call-before-you-dig process.