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Mo. PSC wants oversight of underground utility lines

By Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio

Jefferson City, Mo. – The Missouri Public Service Commission wants to take over enforcement of the state's laws designed to protect underground utility lines.

Currently, the State Attorney General's office has the authority to go after people or companies that damage underground power or natural gas lines.

Natelle Dietrich, Director of Utility Operations for the PSC, says it makes sense for the commission to have that authority.

"We have the Gas Safety Department, which regularly deals with issues related to hits and that type of thing...we also have the ability to impose sanctions, so to speak; (to) go to the courts to impose penalties, and so that framework we already have in place," Dietrich said.

Bob Leonberger heads up the PSC's Gas Safety Program.

"We're very familiar with utilities, we're very familiar with underground facilities...the regulated utilities are the biggest excavators in the state, so it seemed like a natural fit to have an organization like ours be the one to take over the enforcement authority," Leonberger said.

Legislation would be required to move enforcement authority for underground utility line damage from the Attorney General to the Public Service Commission.

A spokesperson for Attorney General Chris Koster says they're evaluating the proposal.

A spokesman for St. Louis-based AmerenUE says they're neutral on the issue.