INDUSTRY NEWS

SOUTH CAROLINA INVESTS $50M IN BROADBAND EXPANSION

South Carolina has invested $50 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds in broadband expansion, providing mobile internet access to 92,000 student households and expanding broadband service to more than 25,000 homes, businesses and schools.

Broadband supports several functions that increasingly have become indispensable during the COVID-19 pandemic, including digital learning, digital commerce, work-from-home and telehealth services. The South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) provided $20 million in funding to procure more than 92,000 mobile hotspots and pay for monthly internet services for households with K-12 or college/university students under the poverty line. An additional $29.7 million was allocated to infrastructure to build out broadband into some 550 target areas in the state that were underserved..

Sunstate Acquires CASCADE

Sunstate Equipment Co. signed an agreement in November (2020) to acquire Cascade Shoring and Cascade Trench Safety. Cascade’s business entities include rental branches in Portland and Seattle.

The acquisition marks the entry of Sunstate Equipment’s Trench Safety Division into the Pacific Northwest. Sunstate’s growth in the northwest has mirrored similar growth into new markets in the southeast – Georgia, Florida, North Carolina. In 2019, Sunstate also entered the specialized services niche of underground and confined space safety with the addition of its Trench Safety Division, which currently operates in Georgia, Oklahoma and Texas.

Sunstate has been in business for 43 years and was founded by Mike Watts, 2010 ARA Hall of Fame inductee.

VIRGINIA GAS LEAK EXPLOSION

A gas leak explosion in Springfield, Virginia in February resulted in three Washington Gas employees being injured and two vehicles catching fire. Utility crews using a backhoe caused the gas line to explode. A Washington Gas crew had been excavating an underground gas line in the street when the line caught fire.

“The fire was being fed from a free-flowing, six-inch gas line,” Fairfax County Fire Department said in a statement. Officials determined the fire was an accident and damages were estimated at approximately $250,000.

Jim Anspach Joins ProStar

ProStar Holdings, Inc. announced in January that Jim Anspach, a global expert in Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE), has been named Chair of the company’s Technology Advisory Board as well as a subject matter expert on the development of ProStar’s Solution.

Anspach has more than 40 years of global experience in the utility engineering industry. He was a founding governor and President of the American Society of Civil Engineer’s Utility Engineering & Surveying Institute (UESI).

“I am very pleased that Jim has joined Pro- Star and will Chair our Technology Advisory Board and also serve as a subject matter expert on SUE matters,” said Page Tucker, CEO of ProStar. “Jim is not only a great addition to our company in terms of guiding our development and ensuring we adhere to industry standards, but he also brings a tremendous amount of credibility and visibility to ProStar.”

ProStar specializes in the development of Precision Mapping Solutions. ProStar’s Solution is designed to improve the business operations of any industry that requires the precise location of sub-surface infrastructure including utility, gas &oil, construction, engineering & surveying, 811 and contract locating.

IN MEMORIAM

LOSS FOR THE INDUSTRY: GINA MEEHAN-TAYLOR; PUBLIC AWARENESS SUPERVISOR, AMEREN ILLINOIS, 1963-2020

Gina Meehan-Taylor passed away on December 1, 2020. Gina worked with Ameren Illinois for 32 years and was widely respected within the company and the utility industry for her passionate advocacy for natural gas safety.

As Supervisor of Ameren’s Gas Public Awareness Program, Gina worked throughout Illinois and nationally to advance the message of pipeline safety and damage prevention with customers, as well as with fire departments, police, public officials, and excavators.

Donations in Gina’s memory may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association or the Invictus Woods Sober Living Home in Peoria, Illinois.

FATHER OF FIBER OPTICS: DR. NARINDER SINGH KAPANY, 1926-2020

Dr. Kapany, who coined the term “fiber optics” in an article in Scientific American magazine in 1960 died in December. Kapany was the first person to demonstrate how to use fiber optics in bundles to transmit light.

More than a scientist, Dr. Kapany specialized in the processes of innovation and the management of technology and technology transfer. Kapany published over 100 scientific papers and four books on optoelectronics and entrepreneurship.

Fortune named him one of seven ‘Unsung Heroes’ in their ‘Businessmen of the Century’ issue in 1999. He was awarded India’s second highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan, posthumously in 2021.

BEN MONTOYA: LEAD SAFELY… OTHERS WILL FOLLOW 1975-2021

Ben Montoya provided hours of training through his company, Tri-State Safety Services, to help advance safety. A military veteran with an infectious smile and a personality that lit up the room, Ben loved everything about teaching people to be safe and tried to make it fun. Highly respected by all who knew him, Ben was well-versed in training, accident/incident investigations, safety meetings and audits, and FMCSA DOT annual inspections.

Ben lost his battle to COVID-19 a month after his diagnosis. He will be dearly missed. Donations in Ben’s memory may be made to the Woof Pet Rescue in Woodward, OK, the Beaver Creek Fire Department, or St. Jude’s Hospital.

Dig Safe Laws Continue to Promote Safety and Best Practices

In September 2019, in Farmington, Maine, a damaged and leaking underground propane line fueled a deadly explosion. This tragedy motivated Main’s legislature to enact changes to the state’s Dig Safe Law, which was signed into law by Governor Janet Mills in March of 2020. The new regulations have convinced many propane marketers of the benefits of locating, marking and avoiding underground lines.

In July of 2020, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 1095 into law, amending the Underground Facility Damage Prevention and Safety Act. “The revised law establishes new noncriminal violations, enhanced penalties, more enforcement entities and incident reporting requirements,” said Wendy Schaefer of Sunshine 811. Since then, some propane operators in Florida have voluntarily joined the 811 system.

New laws like these in Maine and Florida are focusing on safety solutions such as best practices and using the right equipment. “Locates are an important part of our business culture,” explained {eter Dawson, general manager of Blossman Gas (Orlando). “It’s not just about the safety of our customers, the employees and the environment; it also helps to set your business apart. Locating existing lines shows the customer that you are a professional and have the right equipment for the job.”

READERRESPONSE

Natural Gas Transporter Uses Geofencing to Share Safe Digging Message, by Casey Stempien (Winter, 2020)
“It’s effective. Alberta One-Call Corporation has also taken advantage of geofencing to achieve target messaging. Given the high number of social media followers we’ve attracted and kept, namely our Twitter profile (@AlbertaOneCall), #geofencing has become a useful tool.” – Mike Sullivan, President, Alberta One-Call Corporation

Association Spotlight: Nulca New Zealand, by Elle Archer (Winter, 2020)
“Thank you for highlighting our narrative and the shared purpose initiative – cheers from Aotearoa New Zealand.” – Elle Archer, Executive Director, Nulca New Zealand

“Brilliant! Thanks for sharing!” – Goldie B, PM – Geotechnics Ltd. beforeUdig Certified Locator. Secretary, Nucla New Zealand

“Great stuff, we really need to get this sorted.” – Shane Strode-Penny, Technical Specialist Construction, WorkSafe New Zealand

Montana Mandates the Submission of Accurate As- Builts by Utility Owners, by Geoff Zeiss (Winter, 2020)

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