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Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire last Thursday signed into law part of a bill (HB 1634) that expands the state regulatory commission's authority over pipeline safety in the state. Gregoire rejected a section of the legislation that would have exempted from the new law certain "consumer-owned" utilities, such as electric cooperatives, municipal utilities and public utility districts. The governor characterized the new law as including "a comprehensive damage prevention program for underground utilities." A spokesperson with the Washington Utilitites and Transportation Commission (UTC) confirmed that the new statute will require anyone doing excavation work to subscribe to a one-number underground utility locator service and to report damage done to underground utility infrastructure to the UTC. The new law is to be effective Jan. 1, 2013. Both the head of the UTC and the Northwest Gas Association praised the new law as something both entities had been working on with state lawmakers for more than two years.

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