The Georgia Public Service Commission is charged under the Georgia Code with enforcing Georgia Underground Facilities Protection Act (GUFPA). GUFPA is designed to protect the public from personal injury, injury to property, and interruption of utility service resulting from damage to utility facility caused by blasting or excavating operations. The PSC’s enforcement of GUFPA ranges from a warning letter to requiring training on GUFPA requirements up to imposing fines on the individual or company of $10,000 for each violation. In addition, the individual or company is responsible for the damage and must reimburse the utility company for the damage.
A typical GUFPA docket at the Public Service Commission will contain the names of 20 to 40 individuals and companies who accused of having violated GUFPA, although such violation is universally accidental. These fines typically range from $5,000 to over $25,000 for companies with multiple violations, with total fines generally ranging from $50,000 to over $100,000 every two weeks. Stone & Baxter can help individuals and companies accused of violating GUFPA work to reduce or eliminate penalties by pointing out mitigating circumstances to the investigator assigned by the PSC and advocating for lower levels of enforcement such as a warning letter or GUFPA requirement training.
If Stone & Baxter is unable to resolve cases consensually with the investigator, it can advocate the case in front of the Georgia Utility Facility Protection Act Advisory Committee. The GUFPAAC is a 13 member committee that reviews the investigator’s recommendation. If the resolution is still not acceptable, the firm can represent the individual or company in front of the Public Service Commission.
Stone & Baxter can also help companies affected by GUFPA by providing education or training on complying with the act.
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