In April the US Department of Transportation (DoT) introduced the Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2016.
The act comes up for Congressional review and reauthorisation, every four years. The previous act was signed into law in 2012 and prompted the Common Ground Alliance (CGA) — a body formed in 1998 to prevent damage to underground infrastructure – to set in train an initiative to increase the effectiveness of the legislation.
According to DoT the new act is designed to improve pipeline safety by closing gaps in federal standards, enhancing the quality and timeliness of agency rulemakings, promoting better use of data and technology to improve pipeline safety, and providing regulatory certainty.
When the last version, the PIPES Act 2012, came into force several states across the US sought to align their legislation with the mandates of the new legislation, prompting the CGA to act. “The need for CGA to have a role in gathering and sharing best practices in local advocacy became clear,” it said. As a result, the CGA formed its Stakeholder Advocacy committee. The first meeting was held in June 2013.
The goal of the committee is to provide useful materials and work with local stakeholders to educate state and federal policymakers about the CGA’s Underground Utility Safety and Damage Prevention Best Practices so as to positively impact legislation and regulation.
To this end the committee has established a comprehensive Stakeholder Advocacy Toolkit that includes case studies describing legislative activities by states, advocacy resource documents and a legislative activity report that tracks bills related to damage prevention around the country.
Contrary to what its name might suggest neither the Advocacy Committee nor CGA itself lobbies any level of government for specific regulations. Rather it advocates by example. The CGA says its best practices “are the consensus-based safety practices regarded as the industry-wide gold standard.”
The CGA’s initiative has drawn the attention of Australia’s Dial Before You Dig service. In the Autumn 2014 edition of its newsletter the CEO, reporting on his visit to that year’s CGA conference, noted that the three US centres he’d visited were all “governed by very comprehensive and prescriptive state legislation,” but in Australia only NSW and ACT had state legislation requiring excavators to call Dial Before You Dig before starting work.
The newsletter also reported that the board of Queensland Dial Before You Dig had met with equivalent organisations in Canada, the executive committees of the Alberta and Ontario One Call services, and with the Canadian Common Ground Alliance (CCGA), it said: “The time spent with both associations provided the Queensland board with a very good understanding on the framework, logistics and time required to pave a way forward in seeking legislation.”
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