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Liquefied propane lines now included in Dig Safe laws

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Investigators believe that this bollard severed the propane line as it was drilled into the ground. The line can be seen wrapped in a yellow plastic sheath. (Photo provided by Fire Marshal’s Office)

AUGUSTA – Liquefied propane gas lines are now included in the state’s Dig Safe laws after Governor Janet Mills signed the emergency bill last week.

The bill had been submitted by Rep. Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham), the chair of the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, submitted LD 1892 in response to the explosion that occurred at the LEAP Inc. building in Farmington on Sept. 16, 2019. The bill adds liquefied propane gas distribution systems with underground pipes to the state’s Dig Safe laws, which prohibit digging around some lines and mandate excavators report planned projects.

The bill was cosponsored by local legislators Rep. Scott Landry (D – Farmington) and Sen. Russell Black (R – Wilton). It also had the support of Danielle Bell Flannery, daughter of Capt. Michael Bell, who testified earlier this year before the Maine Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology in favor of LD 1892. Bell, a member of a Farmington Fire Rescue, was killed in the explosion.

State Fire Marshal Office investigators later said that the auger head of a bollard, sunk to protect an air conditioner unit, had cut the buried LP fuel line, resulting in propane entering the office building.

While previous versions of the bill had failed in earlier sessions of the Legislature, LD 1892 was passed unanimously by the House and Senate earlier in March. With Mills’ signature on Tuesday, it takes effect immediately.

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