On June 6, 2019, Governor Kay Ivey signed the Senate Bill 315, which updated the Alabama Underground Damage Prevention Law. The purpose of the Underground Damage Prevention Law is to safeguard against injury and loss of life due to excavation or demolition and to protect underground facilities from costly damage and the interruption of utility or other services to the general public. In order to more effectively achieve the purpose of this act, Senate Bill 315 was enacted to strengthen membership requirements in the state’s One-Call Notification System and strengthen enforcement of and penalties for violations of the Underground Damage Prevention Act.
The following are the highlights of changes that went into effect with the passage of this bill.
• This bill requires all underground utility owners to become a member of the state wide One-Call Notification System for receiving excavation and demolition notifications, and removes option for utility owner to operate their own in-house notification system. There is a seven-year sunset on the membership requirement.
• Increases Public Service Commission regulatory oversight of the One-Call Notification System through additional annual reporting requirements. Alabama 811 is currently certified by the PSC and serves as the One-Call Notification System.
• Provides for phased-in membership of new members over a two-year period based on their size.
• Grants relief to excavators for damages to underground facility should the owner of the underground facility failed to join the One-Call Notification System.
• Creates the Underground Damage Prevention Authority, made up of stakeholders, which reviews violations and renders penalties and fines for violations of the act.
• Establishes and defines a tiered set of civil penalties and fines for violations of the act.
• Establishes an Underground Damage Prevention Fund funded by penalties recovered for violations of the act. Fund expenditures shall be at the discretion of the Authority to carry out its duties and excess funds shall be used to support public awareness, training and education related to Underground Damage Prevention.
• Limits the liability of an excavator for damages caused to underground facility if excavator has complied with act, if the facility owner received locate notification yet failed to mark their facilities in compliance with the act, and damage was a direct result of the failure to locate.
• Grants relief from physical marking of facilities, with conditions, if a member facility owner does not have accurate information regarding exact location of their facilities.
• Requires facility owner to provide a positive response to One-Call Notification System once they have determined the facility owner is not impacted at the excavation site or has marked the facility. (Requirement would take effect 12 months after law is enacted.)
• Extends life of locate request from 10 to 20 working days for excavation and from 20 to 30 days for blasting.
• Extends length of time a facility owner has to mark their facility at an excavation site to two full working days, not counting the day the notification is made.
The entire law can be downloaded by visiting Alabama 811’s website at www.al811.com.