Safety is always a top priority for the Department of Transportation, and we will continue doing everything possible to prevent damage, injuries, and loss of life from pipeline failures. Earlier this month, for example, we launched a national pipeline safety initiative to repair and replace aging pipeline infrastructure.
Our efforts to improve pipeline safety aren’t stopping there. Yesterday, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Administrator Cynthia Quarterman and I announced $2 million in grants for 24 states to improve pipeline safety. Thanks to these State Damage Prevention grants, established by the Pipeline Inspection, Protection, Enforcement, and Safety (PIPES) Act of 2006, states from Virginia to Indiana to New Mexico are receiving money to help promote safe digging and prevent dangerous pipeline accidents.
PHMSA Administrator Quarterman and I also joined Associated General Contractors CEO Stephen Sandherr, Common Ground Alliance President Bob Kipp and local fire and safety officials yesterday for a first hand look at proper safe digging procedures.
Joe Hammerstrom of Skanska construction led us on a tour of a new construction site in Arlington, VA, where he's managing the construction of a new office building. He emphasized the importance of calling 811 and identifying underground pipelines before beginning excavation. That simple step can save thousands of dollars in property damage and help prevent injuries and deaths.
That's why Joe had already made the call to the 811, the national free hotline that sends out professional locators to mark where underground pipelines and utilities are located when you plan to dig. The site was marked with spray paint, so Joe and everyone on his construction site could know exactly where the underground pipelines are. That means they'll be able to work safely, minimizing the chances of striking a pipeline and causing an accident.
It’s as easy as calling 811 before getting started. So, to protect yourself, your family, your neighbors, or your co-workers, make the call. And always “know what’s below” before you dig.
Stay tuned to Fastlane next week for more on pipeline safety following the DOT's Pipeline Safety Forum. I announced the forum last month as part of the Department's action plan to raise the bar on pipeline safety. I look forward to convening with state officials, industry leaders, safety advocates and members of the public to discuss steps for improving the safety and efficiency of the nation’s 2.5 million miles of oil and natural gas pipelines.