AUSTIN-- April marks the sixth annual National Safe Digging Month, and the Railroad Commission is partnering with statewide excavation stakeholders to educate Texans about the importance of calling 811 before beginning any digging project. A free call to one-call notification centers prompts pipeline operators to mark their underground pipelines in the area requested, ensuring the safety of springtime digging projects in gardens and yards, or other larger excavation activities by contractors.
In Texas, not calling 811 before digging or incorrectly marking a pipeline can result in fines of up to $10,000 per day per violation. In addition to potentially incurring costly fines and repair costs, hitting an underground facility such as natural gas, electric or telephone lines while digging can harm the environment, cause serious personal injuries and disrupt service to an entire neighborhood. When homeowners and contractors call 811, they are connected to a Texas one-call notification center which notifies the appropriate underground facility operators of their digging plan. Professional locators are then sent to the requested digging site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with flags, paint or both.
Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman said, “Texas state law and pipeline safety rules require specific precautions be taken when excavating. Working in partnership, Commission and local damage prevention councils are providing educational information on regulatory compliance and rule requirements to advance pipeline safety standards.”
Commissioner David Porter said, “It is important to call 811 at least two business days, not counting weekends and holidays, prior to beginning any digging project. At more than 366,000 miles, Texas has the most extensive network of pipelines in the nation. Every digging project, from building a fence to installing landscaping, should begin with a call to 811. It is free and easy to call before you dig, and it could potentially save lives.”
Commissioner Christi Craddick said, “The Commission ensures that the pipeline network beneath the ground in Texas functions safely. The depth of underground lines can vary for a number of reasons, such as erosion, previous digging projects and uneven surfaces. Homeowners and contractors can do their part to keep communities safe by calling 811 to have those underground facilities marked.”
During National Safe Digging Month, Damage Prevention staff of the Commission’s Pipeline Safety division will participate in a series of six free presentations hosted by the High Plains and South Plains Damage Prevention Councils. Texas’ twenty-three Damage Prevention Councils are dedicated to the prevention of damage to underground facilities and public safety through stakeholder education and communication.
Scheduled for April 2 – 4 in Perryton, Pampa, Amarillo, Plainview and Lubbock, Commission representatives will provide information on regulatory requirements and draft proposed rule changes to the Texas Chapter 18 Pipeline Damage Prevention Rules. For more information on these meetings, visit http://www.rrc.texas.gov/pipeline-safety/damage-prevention-program/ or send an e-mail to TDRFInfo@rrc.texas.gov.
Participation in National Safe Digging Month presentations is part of the Commission’s ongoing pipeline damage prevention educational efforts for excavators, pipeline operators, locators and other underground facility owners. The Commission continues to focus on keeping Texas a safe environment to live and work by engagement in the prevention of pipeline damage caused by excavation activities. For more information on pipeline damage prevention and safe digging practices, visit www.call811.com and www.rrc.texas.gov.
About the Railroad Commission
Established in 1891, the Railroad Commission of Texas is the oldest regulatory agency in the state. The Commission has a long and proud history of service to both Texas and to the nation, including more than 90 years regulating the oil and gas industry. Additionally, the Commission promotes research and education on the use of alternative fuels and has jurisdiction over gas utility, surface mining and pipeline industries. Our mission is to serve Texas by our stewardship of natural resources and the environment, our concern for personal and community safety, and our support of enhanced development and economic vitality for the benefit of Texans. To learn more, please visit http://www.rrc.texas.gov/.