New Advocacy Group Addresses Infrastructure Safety

Damages to underground infrastructure are estimated to cost $30 million annually.

New Advocacy Group Addresses Infrastructure Safety
Photo of Jerrod Henschel, DPCA chair, in February 2023

June 7, 2024 – A group of energy, utility and construction industry leaders announced on May 30 the launch of a new nonprofit advocacy organization aiming to address public safety issues underscored by the increase of federal investment in our nation's infrastructure.

The organization, called the Damage Prevention Action Center, will research and advance public policies and industry practices that it believes will maintain the integrity of America’s complex network of underground infrastructure. 

Common Ground Alliance, a national association dedicated to protecting underground utility lines, voted unanimously to support and assist DPAC to work with key stakeholders and policymakers to update laws and regulations.

Jerrod Henschel, newly appointed DPAC chair, said that “hundreds of times a day, critical underground utility lines that we depend on every day are damaged due to breakdowns in the damage prevention process.”

Providers face significant hurdles when constructing broadband infrastructure of which quality control can be included. According to the DPCA, damages to underground infrastructure are estimated to be more than $30 billion annually, which it argues can have an exponential economic impact on local economies. 

Federal investments in infrastructure include the $42.5 billion Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment program, which is funding fiber builds across the country.

“The laws governing U.S. damage prevention and the state-based 811 systems created by them are in many instances decades old, and fail to meet the demands of modern construction and infrastructure development,” said Henschel. 

Henschel added that “the Damage Prevention Action Center’s mission is to advocate for data-driven legislative and regulatory policies and industry practices that protect our nation’s critical underground utility infrastructure and those who work and live near these important assets.”

DPAC said that it will seek to ensure a balanced enforcement of regulations for all stakeholders, incentivize utility and pipeline owners and operators to distribute real-time mapping, mandate reporting of facility damages, and educate stakeholders on the “significant economic, environmental, safety and societal impacts of dig-ins on communities.”

“Since the CGA Board of Directors issued its industry challenge in February 2023 to reduce damages by 50 percent in five years, the momentum has been remarkable,” said DPAC Executive Director Sarah Magruder Lyle, who also serves as CGA’s President and CEO. “Now is the time to take damage prevention to the next level and educate decision-makers at all levels of government on protecting critical underground infrastructure.”

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