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Change Impacts Kentucky’s Call Before You Dig Law

Effective July 14, 2018, a change impacting the Kentucky call-before-you-dig law means the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) may step up enforcement and impose financial penalties on those who fail to properly locate buried pipelines before digging.  The enforcement changes for the existing law are related to a national focus on pipeline safety, particularly natural gas lines. PCS reports that in 2017 many of the 1,200 incidents of damage to pipelines in Kentucky resulted from failing to make an 811 call to have buried utilities properly located in advance of the work.

The law requires that anyone, including homeowners, call the statewide 811 service at least two working days prior to excavating or boring.   Those who operate the buried pipelines could be penalized for not responding to location requests or for improperly or inaccurately locating or marking the lines.  Once the utilities are located and marked, those digging must make sure the excavation occurs safely with respect to any buried lines near the excavation work.  PCS indicates that a failure to call 811 will trigger a state enforcement action.  

Penalties for violating the call-before-you-dig law are up to $1,250 for a first violation, $2,000 for a second violation, and $4,000 for subsequent violations. Beyond these penalties, those that damage properly marked pipelines also risk paying repair and disruption damages to the pipeline operator. If a release occurs from pipeline damage, potential environmental damages could also add up.  While Kentucky’s Underground Facility Protection Statute will have some enforcement teeth for those who fail to call 811 or ignore pipeline markings, the costs for a pipeline incident can far exceed the Kentucky PSC penalties.