Lawrence bill to protect against hazardous substance leaks passes committee unanimously

Posted: May 23, 2019 | Energy, Utilities and Technology, Senator Lawrence

AUGUSTA — A bill from Sen. Mark Lawrence, D-Eliot, LD 1720, “An Act To Amend the So-called Dig Safe Law,” received unanimous approval from the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee on Wednesday. LD 1720 would require excavators to alert authorities if they witness the escape of a hazardous substance or material.

“Natural gas leaks, among other incidents, are dangerous for people who come in to contact with them and have a severe impact on our environment,” said Sen. Lawrence. “This bill will ensure that those in the excavation industry are required to call 9-1-1 if they accidentally start the gas leak or notice a leaking of a hazardous substance, which is a simple measure they can take to ensure the safety of others.”

LD 1720 would make sure that Maine complies with federal regulation to report on the escape of natural gas or other hazardous substance or material. The United States Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration mandates that excavators must immediately call 9-1-1 if they damage or have contact with an underground pipe or facility that results in a noxious leakage.

“Excavation damage is a leading cause of natural gas pipeline incidents in the United States that can result in fatalities, serious injuries and environmental damage,” said Derek Davidson, the Director of the Consumer Assistance and Safety Division of the Public Utilities Commission, who testified in support of the bill. “LD 1720 would make Maine’s Protection of Underground Facilities statute consistent with federal law.”

The bill now faces votes in the Maine Senate and House.