The Attorney General provides important public protection by assuring pipeline safety in the state. The Attorney General has direct enforcement authority over the Missouri Underground Facility Safety and Damage Prevention Act, codified in §§ 319.010 to 319.050, RSMo, and commonly called the “One Call Law.” The One Call Law requires all excavators to notify the Missouri One Call System, Inc. (“MOCS”), notification center before conducting certain digging and excavation activities anywhere in the state so that utility owners can then mark the location of any underground facilities at the site. The law also requires all utilities to mark underground facilities within two working days of being notified of a locate request.
The One Call Law provides important protection by assuring that before digging, workers know the location of gas, electric and other utility lines and facilities. When excavators or utility owners violate the law, they risk the safety of workers and the community. The consequences can be deadly.
Because of those consequences, the Attorney General’s Office spends significant time reviewing complaints from the public, excavators, and utility owners alleging that the One Call Law’s requirements are not met. The Office reviews violations for:
- Failing to timely notify MOCS of impending excavation activity;
- Failing to mark or remark utility lines before excavation occurs;
- Failing to report damage if an underground utility is damaged;
- Improper methods of excavation when markings are required; and
- Improper methods of damage repair. Attorney General Enforcement Efforts
Upon identifying a likely violation, the Office’s enforcement mechanisms might range from issuing warning letters, entering into settlement agreements, imposing fines, requiring training, or filing litigation for the most serious violators. In order to reduce the likelihood of future damage to underground facilities and prevent catastrophic incidents, over the years the Attorney General’s Office has worked together with MOCS to arrange training for hundreds of companies and thousands of employees in order to assure compliance with the law. In calendar year 2021, the Attorney General’s Office:
- Received and investigated 127 new complaints against excavators or utility companies.
- Issued 13 warning letters.
- Entered 63 settlement agreements with entities that contained admissions of One Call Law violations, included training requirements, resulted in the assessment of $45,500 in monetary penalties immediately due, and contained the possibility of collecting additional suspended penalties if the settling entity violates a settlement agreement or does not complete its terms.
- Obtained 4 judgments in court from pending litigation, resulting in $17,500 in court-imposed monetary penalties.
- Filed 4 new lawsuits in circuit court.
The Attorney General also shares responsibility for other aspects of pipeline safety. For example, under § 319.503, RSMo, the Attorney General may pursue enforcement if the owner or operator of a pipeline causes a hazardous substance emergency. Note that the data presented above concerns activity completed in calendar year 2021. In other words, the number of warning letters issued, settlement agreements entered, and newly-filed litigation may be the result of complaints that were filed either in 2021 or in previous years, given the time it may take to resolve a complaint or initiate action after receipt of a complaint. The data above was reported on March 31, 2022, as required by § 319.045.3, RSMo.
One Call Law Complaint Process and Education
If you think a violation of the One Call Law has occurred, you can send a complaint to the Attorney General’s Office at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a detailed description of the basis for your complaint which should include the date, location, entities involved, damage assessment, and nature of the possible One Call Law violation. You may attach any pictures or other documentation you have. Please note that a complaint submitted to the Attorney General’s Office may become a public record.
MOCS can arrange training for excavators, utilities, and other members in the industry. If you would like to schedule a training, or if your company has entered a settlement agreement with the Attorney General’s Office that requires training, please visit MOCS at this website.
Always remember to call before you dig. Call 1-800-DIG RITE (1-800-344-7483). Or just call 811. You can also make a locate request online.