House Representative

Bell, Cecil

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 08/11/2016

Rep. Bell Calls For Industry To Be Held To The Same Standard As Texans on National 8-1-1 Day

August 11, 2016

Austin, TX - Texans are being reminded today of the importance of calling 8-1-1 before doing any digging around homes or in neighborhoods. Texas state law requires every citizen who plans to dig, contractors and the general public alike, to call and have any buried lines marked before beginning any excavation.

What Texans do not know is that when operators of buried lines fail to mark as required by law, and their underground facilities are damaged, services are disrupted, businesses are disrupted- and the operators of the underground facilities then will sue the excavator. Because Texas law does not have any provision holding operators of buried lines who fail to mark the location of their utilities accountable, contractor insurance companies are forced to settle these cases. This provides noncompliant operators with both economic benefit and potential enrichment - even when the excavators have complied, and the operators have violated the law. The result of operator noncompliance is raising insurance costs for contractors and create loss of reliable utilities, such as telephone lines and fiber optic internet, which Texans which depend on.

During the 84th Legislature, Representative Cecil Bell, Jr. (Magnolia) offered legislation to create parity and stop frivolous lawsuits. HB 2535 would have clarified that an excavator who has fully complied with Chapter 251 of the Utilities Code by calling 8-1-1 “shall not be liable for damage of unmarked underground facilities and lines.” Further, HB 2535 would have changed the law so that an operator who fails to comply may be liable for damages to its facilities and for damages incurred by the excavator as a result of the failure to mark.

"As a contractor whose self-employed experience in the industry spans more than 30 years, I have first-hand knowledge of this statute, of the industry and its practices." said Representative Bell. “Because there are no operator penalties for failure to comply, the frequency of lawsuits being filed against homeowners, small businesses, counties, and contractors is steadily increasing year after year. I support 8-1-1 and protecting buried utilities. Operator compliance is essential to protecting buried utilities in Texas. It is my intention to re-file this important legislation in January, protecting Texans who comply with the law from being sued by those entities who do not comply with the law."

Contact: Michael Blair