Page 8 - Alabama 811 Magazine 2021 Issue 4
P. 8

Wallace Jones
Year in Review – Alabama Damage Prevention
by Wallace Jones
Director, Gas Pipeline Safety Alabama Public Service Commission
2021 has seen some major changes in the damage prevention arena in Alabama. The Alabama Underground Damage Prevention Authority (ALUDPA) received its first violation complaints, the “positive response” tool became effective on January 1, 2021, and the Alabama Damage Prevention program achieved an evaluation of “adequate” from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) for the first time.
As of December 15, 2021, the ALUDPA has received one hundred thirty-eight (138) violation complaints. Some of these complaints (thirty-nine (39) as of December 15) have been submitted as “For Information Only” so the ALUDPA can capture the data for reporting to PHMSA and the State of Alabama.
The other ninety-nine (99) have been forwarded to the ALUDPA Executive Committee for further actions. Of those 99 actions forwarded, two (2) have included fines while a number of others have been dismissed due to lack of confirming evidence. The remainder have resulted in the alleged offenders
being required to attend training on excavation safety that is presented by Alabama 811.
Several of the “alleged violations” are still pending action due to the lack of a clear and concise definition for a “large project”. This is a continuing issue in Alabama and will eventually have to be resolved. When someone requests line locates for areas that are larger than the manpower can readily complete within the 48-hour time frame, it creates problems for both the excavators and the locating personnel. The excavators are held up from working due to the lines not being marked and the locators cannot complete all the tickets they have for that time frame. The ALUDPA and other outside stakeholders are meeting on this issue and hope to have a resolution in the near future.
“Positive response” is a new tool that everyone must use (§37-15-6(d)). The locators can let the excavators know when they have completed a project and the excavators can use the information to plan their work. When responsive information is entered into the positive response system, the status of the facility markings for that company
is updated on the locate request. An excavator can pull up his locate request online or using the mobile app to find the current status prior to beginning excavation.”
“INADEQUATE” – that is how Alabama’s damage prevention initiatives had been deemed since the PHMSA began auditing each states’ damage prevention laws. Alabama had always been lacking in the areas of mandatory membership and enforcement with respect to our damage prevention approach. With the passing of the
new, amended law in the 2019 session
of the Alabama legislature, these two
areas were addressed. Mandatory membership for all underground utilities became law. Based on their size and type of utility, those entities are to be phased into membership over several years. Many utilities have already joined the Alabama 811 system and
are now receiving notifications from Alabama 811 on potential excavations in their area.
Enforcement was also addressed
by the 2019 amendment through
the creation of the ALUDPA. The Authority is comprised of a board of fourteen (14) representatives of different stakeholder groups in the state, and three members of state organizations (Attorney General’s office, the Public Service Commission’s Gas Pipeline Safety Division, and the Department
of Transportation). Even though this organization came into existence on January 1, 2020, it took the rest of 2020 for the Board to prepare procedures and processes for the Authority to work under. A website had to be created (, forms had to be designed, and an Executive Committee comprised of 5 stakeholder members had to be elected. But on January 1, 2021, the enforcement actions were launched.
In November 2021, PHMSA audited
our state programs and declared the new changes to Alabama’s damage prevention laws to be sufficient to
move Alabama into the “ADEQUATE” category. This will be the new standard for Alabama to continue to strive for each year. We will only achieve our goal, however, if we are successful in getting the excavators, all utilities and the general public educated about the ALUDPA and what it is for. The efforts required will be more than worth it to make excavations safer in Alabama.
6 • Alabama 811 2021, Issue 4

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