The mission of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission’s (Commission) Pipeline Safety Division (Division) is to ensure the safe and reliable operation of Indiana’s intrastate pipeline system. We accomplish this through a combination of facility inspections, stakeholder engagement, training sessions, outreach programs, investigations of pipeline incidents and, where appropriate, enforcement actions. Enforcement actions may include Commission orders for corrective actions and/or civil penalties. In addition to ensuring compliance with federal and state pipeline safety regulations, the Division is responsible for tracking and investigating all alleged violations of the state’s “Call Before You Dig” law and is active in a variety of damage prevention efforts.
Reacting to events and issues happening around the state is part of our job, but we also recognize the positive impact that proactive communication and stakeholder engagement has on damage prevention.
A significant portion of the Commission’s damage prevention efforts involve the Underground Plant Protection Account (UPPA) fund. This fund was established by state statute and consists of civil penalties levied and collected from violations of Indiana’s “Call Before You Dig” law. In conjunction with the statutory change in 2009 that gave enforcement authority to the Commission and established the UPPA fund, the Division implemented a system for tracking pipeline incidents across the state and created a database to house pertinent information related to the incidents, including the Division’s determinations of violation.
The Commission is responsible for managing the UPPA fund, which is required to be used for programs across Indiana designed to reduce buried facility damages by minimizing violations of the “Call Before You Dig” law through public awareness, training, education, and incentive programs.
We recognize the unique opportunity that the UPPA fund offers. The Commission capitalizes on this by regularly creating safety initiatives and forming strategic partnerships with stakeholders aimed at communicating damage prevention messages to a broad audience. For example:
• On 811 Day in 2017, the Commission launched its online safety training system for excavation professionals. The free training can be accessed at www.SafeDigIndiana.com and is open to anyone wanting to learn more about the “Call Before You Dig” law and 811 system. The Commission also expanded the training program in 2018 to include an additional program called Safe Dig Indiana Local for Indiana- based employees of cities, towns, and counties to attend training and education programs focused on underground utility safety practices.
• This year, the Commission hosted its third annual Safety Days to kick off the dig season. The seven Safety Days sessions are held around the state and designed to educate participants on the “Call Before You Dig” law and 811 system. The free, day-long sessions include both classroom-style segments and a live, mock gasline strike demonstration with full emergency response.
• The Commission continues to engage in strategic partnerships to publicize the importance of damage prevention. The Commission has formed numerous close working relationships with Indiana 811, the Indiana Broadcasters Association, Learfield Communication’s various sports properties, the Electric Consumer Magazine (to reach those Hoosiers who are members of rural electric membership cooperatives), and Indiana’s largest bilingual newspaper, La Voz de Indiana, among many other stakeholders.
Outside of the UPPA fund, we have open lines of communication between industry stakeholders and our staff. We host stakeholder meetings throughout the year to identify areas of mutual concern and to foster the development of potential solutions. Our stakeholder groups work to create across-the-board consent among stakeholders on a variety of issues, such as developing best practices through consensus-building problem solving between excavators and operators.
Through the Commission’s outreach efforts and careful enforcement actions, Indiana continues to be a nationwide leader in pipeline safety.
Steve Allen is Director of Pipeline Safety Division for the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. Allen is the past Chairman of the National Association of Pipeline Safety Representatives. He can be reached at SteAllen@urc.in.gov.