Railroad Commission penalizes Victoria County after gas line break
Nov. 25, 2013 at 5:25 a.m.
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• Approved renovations totaling $13,284 for the county clerk's office.
• Denied AT&T's $1,066 claim for damages to phone lines in Precinct 4.
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Victoria County Commissioners accepted a hard lesson Monday.
The court approved settling a $500 fine imposed by the Texas Railroad Commission after failing to timely report damage to a gas pipeline.
Commissioner Danny Garcia said despite following county procedure and calling ahead to 811 - a federally-mandated call center which locates underground lines, pipes and cables - road crews on Second Street in Bloomington hit an unmarked gas line in January.
"We could fight this, and while we could win it, legally it would cost us more to defend it," Garcia said. "If it was a $10,000 fine, then we'd pursue fighting the claim, but we can't even hire an attorney to pick up the phone for $500."
After damaging the pipeline, the county contacted CenterPoint Energy, which made the repairs.
"It was a done deal," Garcia said.
However, Aug. 20, the Precinct 1 superintendent received a letter from the Railroad Commission notifying the county that they would face a $1,000 fine because the damage had not been reported within 10 days of the incident. Six days later, the county submitted the report.
Since that time, the fine has been reduced to $500.
"We take that as a hard lesson learned and chalk it up to experience," Garcia said.
According to the Texas Administrative Code, the county was required to notify the operator, CenterPoint, of the damage within two hours, as well as report the damage to the railroad commission. The rule has been in place since 2007.
County Judge Don Pozzi said the penalty is difficult to "grin and bear."
The $500 will come from the Precinct 1 budget.
He called the court's decision to pay the fine "very prudent."
Commissioner Kevin Janak said he would not voice his objections but pointed out that the line was not marked.
Pozzi said the county is required to notify the railroad commission of any line it has jurisdiction over.
Garcia said the responsibility should be on 811.
"Had they marked the line, and we hit it, it would have been our responsibility," he said.
Garcia said the county has updated its policy to include reporting damage to the railroad commission.