After the Strike…The Notice of Probable Violation
The potential of an underground utility strike is considerably high. In fact, The Common Grounds Alliance reported 37,562 utility damages in Georgia in 2016, of which 62% were caused by insufficient excavation practices. Utility strikes, the damage caused, the interruptions of services, and the cost associated with repair are not the only high anxiety situations to deal with; we must also consider what State regulations and laws are violated in the damage of accurately marked facilities.
The Georgia Public Service Commission’s GUFPA unit is tasked with enforcing The Georgia Dig Law, a set of rules governing underground utility facilities. Each utility damage in the State of Georgia is reported by the utility owner to the Georgia Public Service Commission’s GUFPA unit. GUFPA, then investigates the damage to discover what Dig Law rules were violated. Each investigation involves reviewing damage reports, and onsite investigation reports taken by the excavator and the utility owner. This information is reviewed, and cross referenced with Dig Law rules to find, if any, violations of The Dig law. If such violations are discovered the GUFPA unit will contact the excavator with a Notice of Probable Violation. This notice is an official notification of a utility damage, the Dig Law violations, and the necessary steps to address the damage incident.
Receiving a Notice of Probable Violation (NOPV) from the Public Service Commission can cause some anxiety as with any citation received. But, avoiding the notice is not the answer. The Public Service Commission wants to help you resolve NOPV matter and encourages you to contact them as soon as you receive a notice. The GUFPA utility investigators will help you navigate process.
To understand the NOPV process better, please view the questions and answers from the NOPV FAQ sheet below:
Why are you receiving this letter?
You are receiving the attached information because our office (The Georgia Public Service Commission/ Facilities Protection Division) has been notified by a utility owner or operator that you have damaged their facility and have been submitted as having possibly violated one or more parts of the GA Dig Law.
What is the GA Dig Law (also known as The Georgia Utility Facility Protection Act (GUFPA))?
The Georgia Utility Facility Protection Act (GUFPA), enacted by the General Assembly in July 2000, provides for the protection of the buried utility facility infrastructure within the State of Georgia. Excavators using mechanized equipment are required to call for a utility facility locate prior to excavating with mechanized equipment or blasting. Upon receipt of a locate request, each affected facility owner/operator must locate their respective utility facilities. Violations of the GUFPA are subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000 each violation. For the full version of the Act please visit our website at www.psc.state.qa.us.
I have paid for the damages to the utility company. Why am I getting something from the PSC?
Damages paid for repairs to utility facilities are separate from the civil penalties assessed for violation(s) of GA’s Dig Law. Although you may have paid for the damaged utility facility, you are now being assessed a civil penalty for probable violation(s) of the GA Dig Law.
How has an Investigation been completed, and I was not contacted before now?
Utility owner/operators are mandated by Commission Rule to report ALL damages to their facilities. Utility owner/operators are to conduct an investigation of the damage and any resulting probable violation(s) prior to submitting the probable violation to the PSC. PSC Staff Investigators will assign each case a number and send out a Notice of Probable Violation (“NOPV’) to the Respondent in order to 1) notify the Respondent of the alleged probable violation(s) and 2) request a written response and supporting documents that show a Respondent’s side of the story.
I do NOT agree with the probable violation alleged. How do I tell my side?
Once you have reviewed the information included in this package you have 30 days from the date listed on the letter to respond in writing, to each alleged probable violation and to provide all evidence you wish to submit in support thereof.
What are my response Options?
There are several ways you can respond to the probable violation:
- Send in a written statement by mail, fax, or email of the events as you recall them. Send in any pictures or other documentation you may have along with witness statements if avail Use the questionnaire attached to the NOPV packet as a guide for your written statement.
- If you agree with the investigation, please sign and date the attached consent agreement and mail or fax it back to our office.
- Contact our office and speak with your investigator (you must still submit your statement in writing).
What happens after I submit my response?
Your investigator will review your information along with the information that was submitted by the utility owner/operator and will determine/complete their investigation based upon their findings and will contact you either by mail, email, or phone call of their conclusion.
What happens if the investigator still finds me in violation after I have submitted my response, and I still do NOT agree?
You may request to appear before the GUFPAAC (Georgia Utility Facility Protection Act Advisory Committee). The GUFPAAC is comprised of approximately 13 members of industry stakeholders and your peers who will hear and make a recommendation on your case.
What happens if I do NOT respond at all?
After the 30-day response time has expired your case will be set for a Rule N/S / hearing on the Title 25 probable violations of the Dig Law. Your case will be heard by a hearing officer who will issue a recommended order on the merits of your case. If the hearing officer finds that the probable violation(s) is(are) supported by the evidence, an additional one-thousand dollars will be added to the civil penalty initially recommended by Staff. For Title 25 Rule Nisis, the civil penalties cannot exceed $10,000.00 per violation.
How do I contact the PSC?
244 Washington Street, SW Atlanta, GA 30334