Oklahoma City, OK – State Rep. Wade Rousselot held an interim study today to alleviate concerns about legislation to protect underground utilities that may be advanced in the 2010 session.
The legislation was driven by a constituent who works in the utility industry and is intended to address damage caused to underground facilities by excavators by introducing a fine for failure to notify Oklahoma One-Call System, Inc., a service that spends 48 hours marking all utilities before a dig.
"I filed House Bill 1644 this past session but put a hold on it so we could iron out a few kinks that needed to be ironed out," Rousselot, D-Okay, said. "The intention is to prevent damage and ensure the safety of the individuals excavating the site. By creating a few civil penalties, our hope is to bring more people into compliance."
Rousselot said he believes that in today's meeting he addressed the three concerns raised about the legislation. First, several entities needed to remain exempt from having to call - municipalities, counties and rural water districts. Second, counties were particularly concerned about large road projects, which could be delayed by having to repeatedly contact utility companies. Third, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission would have assessed the utility industry to pay for investigators and, as of now, won't have to take that action.
"We will continue current exemptions and I have also learned that the utility companies already send out inspectors who can report any lack of compliance," Rousselot said. "With these exemptions in place and by dropping the provision calling for investigators, I think that we will have a bill that's ready for next year's session."