Legislation to reduce property damage and promote public safety passes through committee

A bill dealing with communications between excavators and utility companies begins passed through the Senate Economic Development, Tourism, and Labor Committee on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 165, which has been referred to as the “dig” bill, would set up a system for proactive communications between utility companies and excavators to better plan for marking underground facilities before excavation.

Two state Senators with different “dig” bills came to the table together on Tuesday to present a compromise including language from both pieces of legislation.

While there is already a procedure in place for how long an excavator has to wait before beginning to dig after contacting the operators, Duke Energy Senior Government Affairs Specialist Patrick Keal said there were over 1,000 dig-ins to natural gas facilities last year. He noted the safety concerns around this and said as a utility company, many calls are coming in and the current two-day timeframe to respond to a request before digging begins is not enough.

The amended version of Senate Bill 165, sponsored by Sen. Paul Hornback, establishes longer timeframes for operators to respond to a dig request to ensure safety, standardizes requirements for locating and digging around facilities in a way that is more in line with current practice nationally, and other changes to current laws.

Senate Bill 228, sponsored by Sen. Wil Schroder, is the result of work from a task force led by the Kentucky Chamber bringing together 27 organizations, including associations representing excavators, utilities, and state agencies involved in regulating underground utilities that worked for ten months to find a compromise to modernize the current system.

Sen. Hornback said there are still issues to be worked out between the two bills but the effort to combine them and pass through committee is necessary to move it forward. He added if the issues are not worked out before the bill is voted on in the full Senate, it will not receive a vote. The amended version of Senate Bill 165 now moves to the full Senate.

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