Pipeline Damage Prevention

On September 1, 2007, the Railroad Commission of Texas (Commission) implemented the Underground Pipeline Damage Prevention Rules [16 Texas Administrative Code (TAC) §18.1 - §18.12]. These rules are in accordance with Texas Utilities Code, Chapter 251, and apply to anyone who is or will be moving earth near an intrastate underground pipeline containing flammable, toxic, or corrosive gas, a hazardous liquid or carbon dioxide.

The following questions and answers have been compiled to help pipeline operators and excavators in Texas better understand 16 TAC, Chapter 18.

Is the Texas Department of Transportation exempt from reporting damage?

No, unless the activity resulting in damage is within the scope of 16 TAC §18.1(d)(4) or §18.1(d)(5). Reports filed on damages that fall under one of the exemption categories will only be used for statistical purposes and are encouraged to be filed.

How many positive response attempts is an operator required to make, to an excavator, in order to satisfy the requirements in §18.3(b)?

The operator must provide a positive response per 16 TAC §18.5(a). The operator should make sure that the attempt is fully documented so that if and when an excavator makes a second call, as required, that the operator can prove that a positive response was attempted on the first call and another positive response was made for the second call [16 TAC §18.5(b)]. “Fully documented” means: phone or fax number dialed, or email address used; the time and date of the positive response; and confirmation that the positive response was successful. If it was not successful, document what the problem was in making the positive response (busy signal, wrong number, etc.).

Does a pipeline project have to be white-lined

No. The act of marking the route or boundary of a proposed excavation or demolition with white paint, flags, or stakes to a combination of white paint, flags and stakes is not required. In accordance with 16 TAC §18.3(c) and 16 TAC §18.3(d), a facility does not need to be white-lined if it can be described adequately on a locate request ticket. If the excavation site is too large to be white-lined then a face-to-face meeting between the operator and excavator is required to be conducted.

What are the parameters of the protocols listed in 16 TAC §18.3(d)

The Pipeline Safety Division offers an interpretation of 16 TAC §18.3(d), which refers to the a face-to-face meeting between the operator and excavator to discuss excavation activities and establish protocols.

1. The interval between each notice refers to the time allotted for the marking of the facilities. For example, if an operator and excavator agree to an interval of 7 days, the excavator must contact the notification center every 7 days to ensure that the marks are properly refreshed. 

2. The scope of the ticket refers to the area being excavated and specifically the description of the project provided on the ticket. 

3. The life of a ticket refers to the length of time a ticket will remain “open” or valid. For example, for a large project requiring several months to complete, the operator and excavator may agree upon a specific time period, such as 90 days.

4. The schedule of excavation work refers to the manner and the timing of excavation activities.

If a ticket size is deemed to be too large in 16 TAC §18.3(d) and an operator does not have facilities impacted by the project is the operator required to enter into protocols with the excavator for the project? If not, how should this be documented?

No, protocols are not required. However, a face-to-face meeting between the operator and excavator is still required with the excavator, because at the time the ticket size is determined to be “too large” the operator may not know if their facilities are impacted. The decision that protocols are not needed should be documented by both the excavator and operator.

What is the time frame for the protocols to be initiated in accordance with 16 TAC §18.3(d)?

An operator must notify the excavator of the need for a face-to-face meeting before the 48th working hour. The face-to-face meeting shall occur at a mutually agreed upon time before the operator is required to mark the site.

What happens if a face-to-face meeting between the operator and excavator is held after the 48 working hours has expired and the operator has not yet marked a facility because the issues being discussed have not been resolved or a party is unwilling to agree to and document a process?

The operator must request the face-to-face meeting within 48 working hours. An operator must also meet with the excavator within 48 working hours if the excavator is available and agrees to meet. No excavation may begin until the excavator is available to meet and discuss the planned excavation. Also, the “shall” in 16 TAC§18.3(d) only applies to the requirement to have a face-to-face meeting; it does not require the operator and excavator to agree on the protocols to be used.

Is it possible for an operator to have to make two or more positive responses? For example, if an excavator wants the pipe to be marked in addition to receiving a phone call and email, does the operator have to respond using all of those methods?

No, an operator will only have to make one type of positive response in accordance with 16 TAC §18.5(a). The marking of a pipeline is a type of positive response. If an operator needs to notify an excavator of an “all clear” then a method chosen by the excavator shall be used.

16 TAC §18.5(d) requires an operator to respond within 4-hours of a notice of damage to their facility. What does respond mean?

In this context, “respond” means that an operator must at least call the excavator and acknowledge receipt of the notice of damage and provide and estimated time of arrival on site. The response time begins from the time the operator receives notification of damage. Note: This is in addition to the operator reporting requirements in Title 16 TAC Chapter 18 regarding Pipeline Safety Rules.

Can the diameter of the pipe be on the stake or flag?

Yes. Further, for pipelines greater than six inches, this information is required or every other marker in accordance with 16 TAC §18.8(g).

How many working days does an operator have to report damage using the online Texas Damage Reporting Form (TDRF)?

The TDRF must be submitted within ten working days of the operator’s knowledge of damage in accordance with 16 TAC §18.11(a).

If an operator damages their own line, will they have to fill out a TDRF?

No. But this does not include contracted excavators working for the operator. See question the next question.

Does an operator have to report excavation damages found during anomaly digs?

An operator is required to report damage within 10 days of the damage incident or the operator’s actual knowledge of the damage incident, in accordance with 16 TAC §18.11(a).

Will exceptions be made for right-of-way (ROW) encroachments by landowners who damage pipeline facilities? For example, landowners, such as ranchers, and farmers who routinely work on the pipeline’s ROW without calling for locates.

No. Both professional excavators and those non-professionals, such as landowners, homeowners, or other people not routinely involved in excavation activities, are an evacuators as defined by 16 TAC §18.2(5) and are required to comply with this rule.

Will there be a process for disputing alleged violations?

Yes. Alleged violation notices will be sent to the affected party allowing them to respond prior to any enforcement action being initiated.

If an excavator chooses to contest a violation will they be required to travel to Austin to do so, or can that be done at the local Commission offices?

Yes, all hearings will be held in Austin, unless a request for a telephonic hearing is approved by the Railroad Commission of Texas hearing examiner. See 16 TAC §1.127.

Will the RRC online system track individuals, companies, or both?

The RRC Online System will track both individuals and companies.

Is information from the TDRF system available to the public?

All of the information reported through the TDRF system is considered open record and publicly available in accordance with the Texas Public Information Act.