Company executives make case for why all utilities should join line locate program
TORONTO, April 19, 2012 /CNW/ - A single, mandatory one-call locate program for underground utilities will save lives, cut costs for taxpayers and improve the province's productivity, Union Gas executives told a legislative hearing on Bill 8, the proposed Ontario One Call Act, at Queen's Park yesterday.
Public and worker safety are at serious risk when utility lines such as buried pipelines or hydro lines are struck or damaged because homeowners, building contractors and other excavators do not obtain precise locations before digging. In 2011 alone, there were almost 2,700 natural gas line breaks in Ontario.
In addition to the risk of a public emergency and the real inconvenience of utility outages for customers, economic analysts conservatively estimate that damages caused by excavators who don't call before they dig, cost utility customers, municipalities and, ultimately, taxpayers, millions of dollars a year here in Ontario. There are also significant additional indirect costs related to dispatching emergency services, liability related to injuries and/or fatalities, business interruption and productivity losses.
Currently, an excavator may need to call up to 13 different numbers to locate all utility lines near a dig site. If passed, Bill 8 would establish a non-profit, industry-funded mandatory "One Call" call centre as the single point of contact for all underground utility location services in Ontario.
"The primary driver behind Union Gas' support for Bill 8 and establishing a single, mandatory utility locate system is safety - the safety of our employees, our customers and all Ontarians," Steve Baker, Union Gas president, told the open hearing of the Standing Committee on General Government today.
"Without this legislation, Ontarians face potentially serious risks and we at Union Gas are doing everything we can to ensure lives are better protected."
Sarnia-Lambton Conservative MPP Bob Bailey re-introduced Bill 8, a Private Member's Bill, to the legislature last year. It was co-sponsored by Paul Miller, the NDP MPP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek. Union Gas is among a broad coalition of presenters who will appear before the committee, which also includes Enbridge Gas Distribution, Bell, TransCanada, The Aecon Group, and the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario.
As a founding member of Ontario One Call and the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance, Union Gas has long advocated for a single mandatory locate system for the province, and works to raise awareness about the importance of locating underground utility lines before beginning a digging project, even for something as routine as planting a tree.
"Ontario One Call handled more than 700,000 locate requests in 2011 and sent out almost 2.7 million locate orders," Mike Shannon, Union Gas' vice-president of distribution operations, told the hearing. "That's a staggering number. However, we are not there yet. To take this system to the next level we need all utility asset owners to participate. We know that making Bill 8 law will go a long way toward making Ontario as safe as the U.S., where all 50 states already have mandated One Call centres, and have seen damages reduced by as much as 70 per cent."
About Union Gas
Union Gas Limited is a major Canadian natural gas storage, transmission and distribution company based in Ontario with 100 years of experience and service to customers. The distribution business serves about 1.4 million residential, commercial and industrial customers in more than 400 communities across northern, southwestern and eastern Ontario. Union Gas' growing storage and transmission business offers a variety of storage and transportation services to customers at the Dawn Hub, the largest underground storage facility in Canada and one of the largest in North America. The Dawn Hub offers customers an important link in the movement of natural gas from Western Canadian and U.S. supply basins to markets in central Canada and the northeast U.S. Union Gas, one of Canada's Top 100 Employers for 2012, is a Spectra Energy (NYSE: SE) company with assets of $5.8 billion and approximately 2,200 employees. For more information, visit uniongas.com.
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