ST. PAUL, Minn. — CenturyLink will pay the Minnesota Office of Pipeline Safety (MNOPS) $2.25 million for repeatedly violating a state law last year requiring the company mark the location of underground telecommunications lines.
The consent order also requires the company to develop a damage prevention program, evaluate its quality assurance measures and provide monthly status reports to MNOPS regarding its on-time response performance.
Utility marking is required by law so crews can safely dig without hitting gas, water, internet and other important underground lines. CenturyLink’s locating issues and delays happened during the height of last year’s digging and construction seasons, forcing crews to abandon jobs.
“This was unacceptable and our ultimate goal is for it to never happen again,” said MNOPS Director and State Fire Marshal Jim Smith. “CenturyLink has an important job to do and we want them to do it successfully to help us keep Minnesotans and the people who work and visit here safe.”
MNOPS started investigating complaints in April 2019 that CenturyLink was not responding to marking requests from excavation and construction companies. Soon after, MNOPS began sending the company violation notices regarding Minnesota’s One-Call Law (Minnesota Statute 216D).
CenturyLink will pay MNOPS $2.25 million and will be required to pay an additional $750,000 in civil penalties should the company fail to comply with terms of the consent order. Those terms include:
CenturyLink must respond to 90 percent of utility-locate requests on time over the next two years.
If more than one CenturyLink telecommunications line is damaged per 1,000 locates in two consecutive months, the terms of the order will be extended an additional year.
Develop a damage prevention program.
Develop a quality assurance and quality control program.
Meet provisions regarding safe digging education.
“MNOPS inspectors work hard each day to ensure safe digging by companies and homeowners across Minnesota,” Smith said. “The One-Call Law exists in Minnesota to keep everyone safe. CenturyLink, like any other utility or excavating company, is required to comply with the law and we expect they will continue to do so.”
Civil penalties collected by MNOPS will be used to offset costs incurred while carrying out the office’s responsibilities under state statute, and to develop and conduct additional training programs for locators, operators, and utility companies across Minnesota.
About the Minnesota Department Public Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety comprises 11 divisions where 2,100 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management.
About the Minnesota Office of Pipeline Safety
The mission of the Office of Pipeline Safety is to protect lives, property, and the environment through implementation of a gas and hazardous liquid pipeline inspections program, enforcement, accident and incident investigations, and education.