Senate Bill 1235 passed the Pennsylvania legislature in October, preventing the original Underground Utility Line Protection Law (One Call Law) from expiring as scheduled at the end of 2016. The law was set to end exemptions for Class One gathering lines that connect natural gas wells with pipelines in rural areas, require operators to map abandoned lines and transfer enforcement powers from the Department of Labor to the Public Utility Commission. Bill 1235, referred to as a “bare minimum” bill by One Call reform supporters, extends the current law for one more year.
Critics call Bill 1235 a “watered down version” that leaves workers exposed to danger and does not provide the opportunity to improve safety.
Senator Lisa Baker, the prime sponsor of the original bill, said the one year extension does not change anything. “Public and local officials and emergency responders will ask why measures were not taken (to improve safety) when we had a chance,” she said.
The Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association argued that the exemption for Class One lines should remain, stating that line operators should not have to pay the cost of notifications by those working near the lines.
Bill Kiger of Pennsylvania One Call said he was disappointed by the outcome. He said Class One natural gas gathering lines, whose exemption from the law would have ended, are still dangerous if an excavator accidentally hits them.