United States. Congress. House. Committee on Publi.

Comprehensive One-Call Notification Act of 1994 : hearing before the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation of the Committee on Public Works and Transportation, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, second session, September 22, 1994 online

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Thank you.

[Mr. Costello's prepared statement follows:]

Prepared Statement of Congressman Jerry F. Costello

Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for calling today's hearing on the critical issue
of pipeline safety. I appreciate your leadership on this and other important issues.

We will specifically examine H.R. 4394, the Comprehensive One-Call Notification
Act. This legislation would establish a one-call notification system allowing exca-
vators and others to simply make one telephone call before digging to ensure the

safety of their dig. In Illinois, the one-call system is already existing and I know
that it works very well. Funded primarily by the pipeline companies, all states
should establish such a system to maximize safety and minimize risk.

I look forward to hearing from the witnesses who will testify today. Your testi-
mony is support of this legislation will indicate its importance and its widespread
support among the pipeline companies to place this public safety requirement on
themselves. I am also interested in the testimony of the National Governors Associa-
tion to learn if the states are supportive of this effort.

Again, Mr. Chairman, thank you for calling this important hearing.

Mr. Rahall. It is our honor to hear from two of our colleagues,
who will be testifying as a panel. As our Ranking Member men-
tioned, Representative Pallone had an accident occur in his district
and he knows firsthand the need for such a notification system.

I commend him as well as our distinguished colleague, Rep-
resentative Franks from New Jersey, for their lead on this issue.
I will be glad to recognize you, Frank, for your testimony.


Mr. Pallone. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I do appreciate the
fact that you are expediting this legislation. I know that there is
limited time in this Congress and so the fact that this is moving
is really important to me as well as to my colleague, Bob Franks.

It is really great to be for the Public Works Committee again. As
was mentioned, I was a member of the committee and it is a pleas-
ure to be back here and see so many friends again. As you men-
tioned the accident, it did take place in my district, but I guess I
should mention that Edison township where the explosion took
place is shared between myself and Congressman Franks. So even
though the actual explosion and most of the immediate devastation
took place in my district, it was really a short walk, really, to the
area that Bob Franks represents.

We are here, basically to talk about H.R. 4394, which is the Com-
prehensive One-Call Notification Act. And as I said before, my mes-
sage is, please let us work together to bring in legislation to the
Floor for a vote in the limited time that we have.

The concept of one-call systems has been around for at least 30
years but we have never come as close to passing comprehensive
legislation as we are today. Many of you recall the explosion that
occurred in Edison last March. The ruptured line sent out a fireball
that was seen as far away as Pennsylvania and New York, and the
blast leveled five apartment buildings leaving hundreds of people
homeless. It was amazing the next day when I was there to see the
devastation. It really looked like a nuclear bomb, is perhaps the
only way to describe it.

We were, however, fortunate in that the explosion could have re-
sulted in tremendous loss of life. Tragically, and unfortunately, one
woman did die of a heart attack that night that was fleeing the
Durham Woods Apartment Complex, but all the other people man-
aged to escape.

And it was a heroic situation because many of the people helped
each other, including the disabled and the handicapped, get away

before the fireball and the smoke and everything else arrived and
would have killed people.

The magnitude, though, of the explosion, the photographs dem-
onstrate the damage that can occur in any community when a pipe-
line rupture occurs. If we fail to act now, I am afraid that we are
going to have to wait for another accident, perhaps with more fa-
talities before another one-call bill is acted upon. And many times
we don't act until a tragedy makes it apparent that some legisla-
tive remedy is needed. I am afraid if the accident moves into mem-
ory, we will move on to other issues which have gathered more at-

Initial reports from the Edison accident investigation — and we
are continuing to get these reports — but most of the evidence so far
indicates that, like most pipeline accidents, this one was caused by
third-party damage. Oftentimes, excavators do not know what lies
buried beneath their work site and this ignorance can lead to ex-
pensive and fatal consequences.

My bill proposes a simple solution to this problem. Before exca-
vators begin digging, they call a central phone number to learn
whether there are any underground facilities at the excavation site.
Facility operators, once notified, must come to the site to mark the
lines and these simple measures, I believe, can save lives and pre-
vent damage.

I believe there is a need for legislation on the Federal level. Some
of you may ask or others have asked in previous committee hear-
ings, since most States have one-call systems, why do we need a
Federal bill?

It is true that almost every State has some kind of one-call sys-
tem, but many of these are inadequate. Some that allow for exemp-
tions for excavators fail to cover underground facilities or have
complex enforcement measures. My bill will require mandatory
participation for all excavators and facility operators ensuring that
excavation will be performed safely. And I think without manda-
tory participation, there is no insurance that excavators will be
digging in a safe place.

And lastly, the legislation calls for immediate citation for viola-
tions. These citations, which can be written on the spot like traffic
tickets, are a swift means of enforcement, that will show violators
that failing to call or mark is serious and costly.

I appreciate the help of my colleague who, as you know, is a co-
sponsor of the bill and has worked hard with me on it, Mr. Franks,
as well as all of you, as we try to move this forward in the next
few weeks.

Mr. Rahall. Thank you, Frank.

Mr. Franks. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for allowing
this bill to be the subject of a public hearing today.

Let me indicate for those who might not have seen the pictures
in the national news magazines or the network television coverage,
that the closest analogy that I heard was that this looked more like
a nuclear explosion in terms of the devastation that it wrought
over the eight buildings that it wiped out than any other type of
natural disaster anyone had seen.

The residents of Durham Woods were extremely fortunate to
have escaped with their lives. However, the more than 500 people

who have died due to natural gas pipeline accidents since 1970
have not been as lucky. I believe that greater precautions must be
taken to prevent another Durham Woods-type disaster.

One important step that the Congress can take immediately is
to act on the one-call notification bill that Mr. Pallone has intro-
duced and I have cosponsored. H.R. 4394 represents what I believe
is a reasonable framework to make sure that, before any digging
is commenced, the excavator will know precisely what lies below
the ground.

Since half of all accidents are attributable to third-party damage,
a national one-call law could prevent many otherwise preventable

I would like to bring my colleagues' attention to some legislation
that I have introduced concerning this important issue. That legis-
lation would do four things. First, my bill would increase civil pen-
alties for anyone violating Federal pipeline safety standards.

Second, my bill would increase inspections of natural gas pipe-
lines. Third, my bill would make it a Federal crime to damage a
natural gas pipeline and not report the damage quickly. And
fourth, my bill would conduct an assessment of the risks to public
safety and the environment posed by natural gas pipelines.

I believe that my bill, along with other legislation introduced by
Congressman Pallone, could present a useful starting point to re-
visit the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act of 1968.

Since this subcommittee shares jurisdiction over pipeline safety
with the House Energy and Power Subcommittee, I look forward to
Congress' consideration of that legislation when the NGPSA is re-
authorized next year.

Mr. Chairman, it is clear that legislative changes need to be
made in order to better protect the millions of Americans who live
and work near these natural gas pipelines. In my home State,
which has for a number of years had a reasonably effective vol-
untary one-call system, legislation is expected to be signed next
week by Governor Whitman that would cause the system to be a
mandatory system.

One-call notification legislation, however, needs to be encouraged
on a national and uniform basis if at all possible. I think Congress-
man Pallone's legislation is an enormous step forward and I look
forward to working with him to secure passage.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Rahall. Thank you, Bob. The Chair now recognizes the dis-
tinguished Chairman of the full committee.

The Chair. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate
your leadership, as well as that of Mr. Petri's in holding these
hearings. And I would like to thank our colleague, former colleague
on our committee — that is all right. Frank, I will forgive you for
leaving our committee, but we will call it the Franks bill.

But in any event, I want to thank you, Frank, for your leader-
ship as well as Senator Bradley on this, with our colleague Bob
Franks who is a cosponsor of H.R. 4394.

Without a doubt, this is one of those bills that is important,
given the devastating pipeline accident that occurred in your dis-
trict in March 1994. So we recognize the importance of this. We
also know the history of what is behind this bill.

I also want to welcome Dr. Sharma, whom all of you know as the
administrator of RSPA who is here today as well as George Tenley,
Associate Administrator for Pipeline Safety who will be testifying.

Dr. Sharma is — I don't want to say an old friend. He is an ac-
quaintance of long-standing. And his home is probably about,
maybe, 6 miles, 7 miles from mine. And so I have known Dave for
a long time.

And today is the official swearing in, although he has been — he
has already taken the oath. But I guess later this afternoon, will
be his swearing in ceremony. So I know that he has already been
on the job and we look forward to that ceremony this afternoon.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Martin from
the National Governors' Association as well as all the other wit-
nesses who will be testifying at this important hearing today.

Our Public Works and Transportation Committee has, for a long
time, supported the worthiness of the concept for one-call notifica-
tion programs and in fact mandated in the 1988 Pipeline Safety
Reauthorization Act that the Secretary establish minimum Federal
requirements for State one-call programs to meet.

Now, the requirements are applicable to excavations in the vicin-
ity of pipelines. This legislation, however, was limited only to pipe-
lines and did not apply to other underground facilities. It has been
long-known that third-party damage is the primary cause of pipe-
line failures. And the legislation before us today appears to make
a significant inroad into rectifying this situation which should cer-
tainly enhance the safety of all underground facilities and their op-

So, I want to thank all of the witnesses who are going to be here
today, as well as looking in order to hearing their testimony so that
we will be able to be in the position to move forward H.R. 4394,
the Pallone/Franks bill.

Thank you very much Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Rahall. Mr. Petri.

Mr. PETRI. Thank you for your testimony. And I guess we are all
aware of the new technology that is rolling out in transportation
so that before long, if you can't already, you will be able to push
a button on your car dashboard and it will tell you where you are
and you can get a road map to tell you where you want to go. And
it is already done for trucks and ships and planes to some extent.

A massive investment is going forward in our country, and
around the world, in putting the location of wires and underground
structures, all sorts of investments into similar computers so that
this one-call system will become increasingly effective as that is
rolled out.

It is one thing to call one number. It is not sometimes so simple
for the people in the State office to figure out and be able to re-
spond in a timely fashion. And a lot of research firms are getting
contracts to get this information. It is a big up-front capital invest-
ment for a city or local unit government or a State, but once it is
there, it saves everybody a lot of money and the cost of doing busi-
ness and making changes within that geographic area.

I think you are at the cutting edge of technology, and I commend
you for your initiative.

Mr. Pallone. Thanks. I appreciate it.

Mr. Rahall. The Chair recognizes the gentlelady from Missouri,
Ms. Danner.

Ms. DANNER. Mr. Chairman, I have no statement, thank you.

Mr. Rahall. The Chair again recognizes the full committee
Chairman, Mr. Mineta.

The Chair. Thank you.

Let me just ask, Frank, I think we will probably hear later on,
but maybe if you have the information, do you have a breakdown
of the number of accidents that occur by pipeline, oil pipeline, cable
TV, or municipal sewage lines or other kinds of water lines that
might have occurred?

Mr. Pallone. No, I don't have it, Mr. Chairman.

The Chair. Let me just ask another general question. In terms
of any opposition to this bill, do you know what kinds or groups
there might be out there?

Mr. Pallone. No, just the opposite. I mean, in fact, from the
very beginning, all the industry groups were for cooperative. And
in fact most of the industry groups have been looking for some sort
of national one-call system for a long time.

We had some kinks, if you will, in the law in the sense that we —
you know, that we wanted to make sure that what we did was not
going to negatively impact what States already had. But I mean
the way the legislation is phrased, it basically allows the States
that do have one-call systems to basically build upon what they
have. And if it is completely mandatory and meets all the essential
recommendations, they would just leave in place what they have or
they could obtain a grant, you know, to improve it somehow.

So I really haven't, at this point. If any, I would say that the
groups that you might think wouldn't like it, the industry groups,
have been the most supportive.

The Chair. And I have met with them and you are absolutely
right. The industry groups, INGAA, AGA and others are very sup-
portive of this. The National Governors' Association is here, but I
am just wondering if some of the other groups, U.S. Conference of
Mayors, any others have

Mr. Pallone. No. The only other thing that came up, and I
thought Mr. Petri was getting at it, was the idea of how you would
implement the nationwide number or whatever. And we basically
leave that up to the Secretary. Because as you said, Mr. Petri, the
technology is such there may be a better way of doing it.

I naturally think of a 1-800 number, but we may not do it that
way. There may be a more effective number that taps you into a
State number.

The Chair. Last week I happened to follow a truck that said call
Miss Utility, 1-800.

Mr. Pallone. There are a lot of them around, but they are a lit-
tle on the sexist side. You have to watch out.

The Chair. This one might have been PC. Thank you very much.

Mr. Rahall. Thank you, Frank. Thank you, Bob. I appreciate it.

Mr. Pallone. Thank you.

Mr. Franks. Thank you.

Mr. Rahall. Our next witness is Dr. D.K. Sharma, Adminis-
trator of the Research and Special Programs Administration, and


he will be testifying on behalf of DOT. He is accompanied by
George Tenley, Jr., the Associate Administrator for Pipeline Safety.
I join in words of praise from our full committee Chairman and
I welcome you to your first hearing as a witness before Congress.
It is indeed our honor to welcome you. We do have your prepared
testimony, and as is the case with all witnesses today, that testi-
mony will be made a part of the record. You may proceed in what-
ever manner you desire.


Dr. Sharma. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Chairman, I am Dave Sharma, Administrator of the Re-
search and Special Programs Administration. With me today is
George Tenley, Jr., Associate Administrator for Pipeline Safety.

As the first Senate-confirmed administrator of RSPA, it is indeed
a privilege and honor for me to appear here before you today.

I am especially honored, Mr. Chairman, that Chairman Mineta
is here to listen to my first testimony before Congress. Chairman
Mineta is the author of the bill which created RSPA. He is a great
supporter of RSPA, and he is a great supporter of me personally.
I consider him a great friend, and I truly feel it is an honor, Chair-
man Mineta, that you are here today to listen to me.

Mr. Chairman, I look forward to working with you as we fulfill
Secretary Pena's vision of developing a transportation system for
the 21st century that is second to none.

Today, we are here to discuss our ongoing efforts to protect and
improve the quality of the Nation's pipeline infrastructure. A num-
ber of recent pipeline accidents have raised concerns regarding the
condition of this infrastructure.

Let me assure you, Mr. Chairman, that improving pipeline safety
is a high priority for the Secretary and for the Research and Spe-
cial Programs Administration. Secretary Pena has requested a sub-
stantial increase for the 1995 pipeline safety budget and we intend
to use these funds to help transition RSPA into a leadership role
in managing the risks that are inherent in pipeline transportation.

The greatest threat to pipeline integrity is excavation damage
typically caused by heavy construction equipment striking a pipe-
line. A key role for our pipeline safety program, therefore, must be
to minimize the risk of excavation damage.

A comprehensive one-call program is the best way to minimize
this risk. To ensure an effective one-call program, participation by
all underground facility operators must be mandatory. And with
few exceptions, all excavation must be done after calling. They
must call before they dig.

Sanctions for failure to comply with the system must be effective
and easily administered. And there must be widespread public edu-
cation on the use and benefit of the one-call systems.

The system must also provide 24-hour coverage with provisions
for emergency excavation.

H.R. 4394 can be an effective tool to help us implement a com-
prehensive network of State one-call systems, and I want to con-
tinue working with you, Mr. Chairman, and Members of the com-
mittee, to ensure its passage at the earliest possible date.

I fully endorse the establishment of a Federal pipeline safety
grant program that provides funds to States to adopt one-call pro-
grams that meets the intent of the legislation. I also fully endorse
the development of a model call program and a nationwide public
education program.

Finally, I agree that we need an enforcement provision that
leaves discretion to the States in establishing penalties and one
that provides for increased penalties when damage results from a

Mr. Chairman, the pipeline safety program is on the threshold
of becoming what it has needed to be for many years. The Sec-
retary has pledged his personal support to ensure that the program
reaches its full potential, and I add my personal pledge to you, sir,
for the same outcome.

We believe that Congress has made great progress towards creat-
ing one-call legislation that will significantly enhance our ability to
meet this objective.

We will continue working closely with the committees to produce
an effective bill. We also will continue, Mr. Chairman, to work with
one-call systems and all national groups representing constituents
involved in underground facility damage prevention to develop
comprehensive damage prevention strategy that covers all under-
ground facilities, not just pipelines. As contemplated in the bill, we
will develop a model program that can be adopted by the States for
application to all underground facilities throughout the country.

Thank you, again, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to appear
before you. And I will be glad to answer any questions that you or
the Members of the committee might have. Thank you, sir.

Mr. Rahall. Thank you, Dr. Sharma.

Mr. Tenley, do you have testimony?

Mr. Tenley. No, sir.

Mr. Rahall. Okay. Dr. Sharma, almost all the questions I had
for you have been answered by DOT in recent correspondence. At
this point, I would like to ask unanimous consent to insert in the
record a letter dated August 16, 1994 that I sent to Secretary Pena
asking the Department to respond to a number of questions related
to H.R. 4394 as reported by the Energy and Commerce Committee.
Also included is a response to this letter dated September 8, 1994,
and signed by you in your position as Administrator.

[The information received follows:]





ON H.R. 4 3 94



In the substitute's definition of the term "excavation" an
exclusion is made for "the tilling of soil for agricultural
purposes to a depth of 18 inches or less . . " Does the
Department support an exclusion for agriculture related
excavations, and if so, whether 18 inches is the appropriate iepth?


An exception for agricultural tilling is common to most one-call
programs and has not been seen as a problem. While the Department
of Transportation believes that generally exceptions for those who
dig in the proximity of underground facilities should be kept to a
minimum, an agricultural exception should pose no substantial
threat to those facilities because farmers know of the easements
that traverse their lands.



The substitute's definition of the term "underground facility" is
comprehensive and includes any underground line relating to
communications, electricity, water, steam, sewerage and
commodities .

Given that the Department's current responsibilities as they relate
to pipeline safety involves natural gas and hazardous liquid
pipelines, does the Department feel it has the qualifications and
resources to carry out the program envisioned by the legislation
for other types of pipelines and line systems?


Although, as the question notes, the Department does not have
existing responsibilities for underground facilities other than
natural gas, hazardous liquid, and carbon dioxide pipelines, the
bill does not impose on the Department a significant obligation to
undertake a substantive new program on other underground systems.
In discharging its responsibilities under the bill, the Department
will be able to work with one-call systems and national groups
representing the numerous constituents involved in damage
prevention. This effort is part of our existing one-call
enhancement strategy, and, as contemplated in the bill, will be
focused in our work to have the model program adopted throughout
the country.



The substitute in section 3 requires the Department, within one-
year after enactment of the legislation, to provide for the
establishment of a nationwide toll-free telephone number system to
be used by one-call notification systems:

(A) Given that the legislation requires all States to
establish relatively uniform one-call notification systems,
does the Department believe section 3 of the bill is
necessary, and if so, why?

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Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Committee on PubliComprehensive One-Call Notification Act of 1994 : hearing before the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation of the Committee on Public Works and Transportation, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, second session, September 22, 1994 → online text (page 2 of 7)