BILL ANALYSIS Ó 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 AB 811 -- 6/3/13 -- Page 2 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.