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What is next for Class Bs in Texas?
Like gas, electric, and telecommunications, water facilities encompass vast pipeline networks susceptible to damage during excavation work. We know that unintentional strikes on water infrastructure can lead to severe consequences, such as water contamination, service disruptions, environmental hazards, and even potential harm to workers, the public, and first responders. Damages to water infrastructure are also time-consuming
and costly. In the 811 system, we have a unique opportunity to ensure the uninterrupted flow of clean water and minimize
the negative economic and social impacts that may arise from damage incidents that could have been avoided.
Protecting water facilities from damage is a shared responsibility that requires collaboration, awareness, and effective communication. The 811 system is a valuable tool
in preventing accidental strikes on underground water infrastructure in Texas. By promoting the use of this system, raising awareness, and fostering collaboration, the state can enhance the protection of its water facilities, ensuring the continued delivery of safe and reliable water to its residents and industries.
Perry Fowler is the Principal of Fowler Group Texas, LLC providing association management, government affairs consulting, and lobbying services for his clients. Mr. Fowler has almost two decades of policy and advocacy experience at the national and state level. Perry has worked with Texas811 for over a decade and is currently the Executive Director of the Texas Water Infrastructure Network (TXWIN).
flow, consensus among stakeholders has been lacking, and stakeholder groups have been reluctant due to legitimate concerns about opening state damage prevention law due to potential unforeseen consequences of policy changes.
We can agree, however, that there is a significant and growing understanding of how the 811 system can
benefit both Class A and Class B utilities by ensuring all stakeholders are involved in the system, which will enhance safety and damage prevention across the board. The time has come for active stakeholder engagement and consensus building around comprehensive damage prevention; perhaps it is time to bring water into the fold as a key infrastructure damage prevention stakeholder.
Will policy related to damage prevention and Class B facilities be introduced when the Texas Legislature gavels into the 89th Texas Legislative Session in January 2025? The answer is uncertain, but there is a precedent for activity in this policy area, and we can be sure that Legislators
will be keen on protecting new investments in water
and broadband as we protect our current underground infrastructure assets. Many states, including some of our neighbors, have taken steps to incorporate water facilities and sewer laterals into their one-call systems, including Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Notably, recent developments in Congress could impact the regulation of Class B utilities as they pertain to damage prevention Texas and one call law. Specifically, H.R. 6494, the Promoting Innovation in Pipeline Efficiency and Safety (PIPES) Act of 2023. This bipartisan legislation, also known as the “Pipes Act,” reauthorizes funding, programs, and policies under the jurisdictional authority of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration, commonly referred to as PHMSA, a federal agency under the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Of note, language was specifically included in the legislation passed out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on November 30, 2023, that would ‘‘require(s) the marking of lines and laterals, including sewer lines
and laterals;”. This language and several federal policy updates were amended in the House Committee markup, initially just suggested, and would now be mandatory as the legislation heads to the full House of Representatives for consideration.
As Congress moves forward with the Pipes Act, it is conceivable that this will lead to several changes in federal damage prevention law and many of the proposed changes in the legislation reflect evolving damage prevention practices, many of which were developed on a consensus basis within the national damage prevention community through groups such as the Common Ground Alliance. The bill now awaits approval by the U.S. House and will likely be quite similar in the Senate as it navigates the process in DC. If the Pipes Act passes as written presently, this will likely necessitate changes in Texas law to achieve compliance with federal law.
 16 • Texas811 2024, Issue 1

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