Assessing Risk From Safety and Environmental Challenges

June 1, 2015 by Philip B. McKiernan, Partner
Assessing Risk From Safety and Environmental Challenges

The following is an excerpt from Ice Miller's Pathways to Success for Utilities Guide which provides insights on a variety of topics potentially impacting utility service providers. 

The nature and complexity of the safety and environmental challenges a utility faces in connection with the facilities it places on a right-of-way will vary based on numerous factors. The character of the utility service and the regulatory regimes it operates under will define many of these challenges. The challenges faced by an electric utility operating over-head power lines on an easement differ from those of a wastewater utility with buried collection mains. Regardless of the type of utility, a proper assessment of safety and environmental challenges starts with the same basic questions: What can go wrong? How likely is it? What are the consequences? These questions may be easily stated, but are difficult to answer.

Due to the non-exclusive nature of an easement and the limited size of the typical easement area, a utility cannot limit its assessment of safety and environmental challenges to just its activities within the right-of-way area. A utility also must assess safety and environmental risks and consequences of a landowner’s or another’s activities within or near its right-of-way. These sources can provide just as much of a risk to the utility and when identified, require action on the utility’s part. For example, while farming may be consistent with the utility’s use of the right-of-way, the weight or height of the equipment used to pursue the activity may not be and can jeopardize a buried pipe or an aboveground cable. What can you do to minimize risk, regardless of the type of utility?

To learn more, download the Pathways to Success for Utilities Guide or contact any member of Ice Miller's Energy and Utilities Law practice group. 

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