BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    




                     SENATE GOVERNANCE & FINANCE COMMITTEE
                            Senator Lois Wolk, Chair
          

          BILL NO:  AB 811                      HEARING:  7/3/13
          AUTHOR:  Lowenthal                    FISCAL:  No
          VERSION:  6/3/13                      TAX LEVY:  No
          CONSULTANT:  Weinberger               

                             SUBSURFACE EXCAVATIONS
          

          Requires regional notification centers to post on their  
          Internet Web sites information relating to violations of  
          specified state laws governing subsurface excavations.


                           Background and Existing Law  

          To protect people who live and work near buried pipes and  
          cables, and to save the costs associated with damage to  
          underground infrastructure, state law out-lines a  
          sequential system to aid excavators in locating subsurface  
          installations.  Entities that own, operate, or maintain  
          subsurface installations must join a non-profit Regional  
          Notification Center (RNC) to provide advance warning of  
          under-ground installations close to proposed excavation  
          projects.  Except in an emergency, anyone planning to dig  
          in an area with underground installations must notify the  
          appropriate RNC at least two days before breaking ground  
          and, if practical, must mark the area to be excavated in  
          white paint.  The potentially affected underground  
          installation operators must locate and field mark the  
          approximate location of their installations.  Excavators  
          must then determine the ex-act location of the subsurface  
          installations by using hand tools, with limited exceptions,  
          to excavate within the field markings. 

          The Common Ground Alliance, a national organization formed  
          to promote safe underground excavation practices and  
          prevent damages, has developed the Damage Information  
          Reporting Tool (DIRT), an online application that collects  
          reports of excavation incidents that involve damage,  
          downtime, and near-misses related to underground  
          infrastructure.  Data collected through the DIRT  
          application is used to better understand the nature and  
          causes of underground excavation incidents and to improve  
          prevention efforts.  Individual identities of parties  




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          involved in incidents reported through the DIRT application  
          are kept confidential and the data is not used for  
          enforcement purposes or to determine liability.

          According to the Common Ground Alliance's annual report on  
          data collected through the DIRT system in 2011, at least  
          eleven states have enacted legislation governing data  
          collection on excavation incidents.  The regional  
          notification centers that serve California want the  
          Legislature to authorize them to use the DIRT application  
          to collect, and make public, statewide data on excavation  
          incidents.
                                   Proposed Law  

          Assembly Bill 811 requires regional notification centers to  
          compile information provided by operators and excavators  
          regarding facility events and make that information  
          available in annual reports and on their Internet Web  
          sites.

          AB 811 defines "facility event" as the occurrence of  
          excavator downtime, damages, near misses, and violations.

          The bill defines "statewide information" as information  
          submitted by operators and excavators using the California  
          Regional Common Ground Alliance's Virtual Private Damage  
          Information Reporting Tool.   Supplied data must comply  
          with specified provisions in the Common Ground Alliance's  
          most recent Best Practices Handbook.


                               State Revenue Impact
           
          No estimate


                                     Comment  

           Purpose of the bill  .  Despite state laws governing  
          underground excavations, many excavators fail to contact  
          regional notification centers before they dig or improperly  
          excavate around marked underground facilities.  Excavation  
          accidents can damage vital infrastructure, disrupt utility  
          services, harm the environment, impose substantial costs on  
          underground facility operators, and sometimes cause  
          injuries or deaths.  Because of these threats, California  





          AB 811 -- 6/3/13 -- Page 3



          needs to establish a statewide system for collecting and  
          reporting information about excavation incidents.   
          Information currently gathered by state and federal  
          entities is fragmented, inconsistent, and not completely  
          available to the public.  Gathering statewide data about  
          excavation incidents will help the Legislature identify  
          deficiencies in current law and will inform future public  
          policy decisions about excavation safety rules and  
          enforcement.  By establishing a voluntary, anonymous  
          reporting system for excavation incidents, AB 811 will  
          advance the goal of improving excavation safety.


                                 Assembly Actions  

          Assembly Business, Professions, and Consumer Protection  
          Committee:                                   12-0
          Assembly Floor:                                        75-0



                         Support and Opposition  (6/27/13)

           Support  :  Underground Service Alert of Northern California  
          and Nevada; Underground Service Alert of Southern  
          California; AT&T; California Legislative Conference of the  
          Plumbing, Heating and Piping Industry; National Electrical  
          Contractors Association; Western Line Constructors; Pacific  
          Gas and Electric Company; Southern California Edison.

           Opposition  :  Unknown.