The Common Ground Alliance (CGA) is North America's leading organization to ensure public safety and reduce damages to underground facilities like pipelines, electric lines, and telecommunications cables.
DOT and the Common Ground Alliance have a shared primary mission: safety.
As head of DOT's Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Cynthia Quarterman recently addressed CGA's annual meeting.
Now, we have been working tirelessly in our Department to foster a sense of "One DOT, putting safety first." Well, the Common Ground Alliance, a collaborative group of industry and government stakeholders seeking to improve safety, is exactly the kind of initiative that has the Obama Administration’s full support.
You may not know this, but our nation's pipeline infrastructure is crucial to our way of life, at some point transporting the majority of our nation's oil and natural gas through a network of 2.5 million miles of pipes criss-crossing America.
And excavation damage is the number one cause of serious pipeline incidents. But one of the messages Administrator Quarterman made sure to deliver is that these incidents have decreased markedly since the Common Ground Alliance began its important work.
However, these excavation-related incidents still occur too frequently. As Administrator Quarterman reminded her CGA audience:
"From 2007 through 2009, excavation damage caused approximately 27 percent of all serious hazardous liquid pipeline accidents and 16% of all serious natural gas transmission pipeline incidents. For natural gas distribution pipelines, excavation damage caused 28 percent of all incidents over the same two year period."
A key message to CGA is that the states can help us reduce the number of these dangerous incidents even further. As Administrator Quarterman said:
"Many states have passed new or revised damage prevention laws that have significantly strengthened damage prevention programs in those states. We are also seeing tremendous momentum among the states to implement the nine elements of effective damage prevention programs described in the PIPES Act of 2006, which stress effective communication, stakeholder partnership, improved underground locating, employee training, public education, conflict resolution, law enforcement, technology, and data analysis."
Now, since 2008, PHMSA has provided over $4 million in State Damage Prevention grants to assist in implementing of the nine elements above, with encouraging results. Administrator Quarterman and I--along with everyone at PHMSA--commend the states who have received these grants on a job well done.
And we encourage damage prevention stakeholders in every state to continue working together. As the CGA motto reminds us, "Damage prevention is our shared responsibility."