Texas Railroad Commission: Underground Pipeline Damage Prevention

Citation: 16 TAC Part 1; §§18.1 - 18.12; (16 TAC Chapter 18)

Published Date: June 15, 2007

Effective Date: September 1, 2007

Title 16, Part 1, Chapter 18 of the Texas Administrative Code (TAC) was adopted to address prevention of damage to pipelines. These rules affect underground pipeline operators and excavators, and provide for the first time penalties for violations.

The RRC rule incorporates best practices from the pipeline protection safety organization Common Ground Alliance, and provides reporting guidelines for operators and excavators. Points of interest in the new rules include:
  • Penalties for underground pipeline operators and excavators for violations range up to $10,000 per day per violation. Non-monetary penalties may be imposed, such as issuing a warning or requiring attendance at safety training. A penalty summary table can be found at: http://www.sos.state.tx.us/texreg/archive/June152007/tables-and-graphics/200702133-1.html .
  • Anyone digging deeper than 16 inches near a pipeline is required to call 811—the national One Call number.
  • A pipeline operator is required to make a “positive response” to an excavator’s request by marking a pipeline in the area to be excavated or by confirming that there are no pipelines in the excavation area. Positive responses can be made by fax, phone, e-mail, pager, or written correspondence, as specified by the excavator. Operators are required to respond within 4 hours of an excavator’s second attempt to make contact or excavation will begin.
  • A minimum tolerance zone for digging (half the diameter of the pipeline plus a minimum of 18 inches on either side of its outside edge on a horizontal plane) is set with requirements to designate the type of excavation permitted also.
  • Excavators are required to exercise reasonable care to prevent damage to pipelines.
  • Marking procedures are set, which conform to the requirements of American Public Works Association (APWA) Uniform Color Code (ANSI Standard Z535.1, Safety Color Code). Operators shall mark the approximate center line of an underground pipeline by means of stakes, paint, flags, or a combination of two or more of these.
  • Excavators and operators are required to report violations and damage to underground pipelines through a new on-line reporting system known as the Texas Damage Reporting Form found on the RRC’s website at: http://www.rrc.state.tx.us/. Operators shall report damage to the RRC within 10 days of the incident or knowledge of the incident. Excavators shall report damage incidents within 2 hours.
  • Excavators and operators may jointly establish practices for specific excavation sites based on each job. Examples include: designating contacts for communications; coordinating work activities; special marking requirements; setting the life of a locate ticket; and the establishing schedules of work.
  • A number of terms are defined, such as “damage,” “movement of earth,” and “tolerance zone.” Certain record retention requirements are also defined.
  • Pipelines exempt under Texas Utilities Code, §251.003 are exempt from the rule.

The Common Ground Alliance Best Practices, version 3.0 can be viewed at the following link: www.commongroundalliance.com

All the rules can be viewed under Chapter 18, Underground Pipeline Damage Prevention, at the following link: http://www.rrc.state.tx.us/rules/proposed.html

This Regulatory Alert was prepared by J. Connor Consulting, Inc. to advise our clients of impending deadlines and applicable regulatory requirements. No official agency policy is implied.