EXCAVATION SAFETY – SB 1217 (2011)

BACKGROUND

A Longbow client locates and marks underground infrastructure when an excavation is planned. Their primary concern is adequate notice to, and protection of, the excavator.

In Texas, as in many other states, an excavator is required to provide sufficient notice to the
statewide notification agency prior to a dig. This is an important barrier to reckless and hasty
excavations. However, it had become common practice for some careless excavators to claim their dig was an emergency in order to circumvent the notice requirement and dig immediately.

GOALS

After lengthy discussion with the client, the agreed goals were:

  • Discourage the practice of false emergency excavations;
  • Seek a criminal penalty for the practice; and
  • Increase industry awareness of the practice.

ACTION

Longbow Partners, led by Mike Stewart, worked together with the client principals and other
stakeholders, including a pipeline association and major telecommunication provider to:

  • Draft legislation (ultimately embodied in SB 1217), that amended relevant sections of the Texas Utilities Code to clarify the definition of an emergency situation, increase civil penalties for violations of the statute, and establish a criminal offense for knowingly or recklessly claiming an emergency situation.
  • Identify influential members of both chambers to author and support the legislation;
  • Seek and elicit support from other influential groups to support the legislation;
  • Prepare testimony and witnesses for committee hearings and meetings with Texas leadership;
  • Create, produce and distribute persuasive materials to members of the legislature, Lt. Governor, Speaker of the House and Governor; and
  • Meet with key legislators to advocate for passage of the legislation.

RESULTS

SB 1217 was passed in the 82nd legislative session and signed into law by the Governor on May 28, 2011. The legislation has been hailed by excavation safety advocates and had a chilling effect on those previously inclined to falsely report emergencies. Longbow Partners is now working on similar legislation in other states on behalf of the same client.