Rhode Island Passes Contact Voltage Legislation

PROVIDENCE, RI  (June 7, 2012) — Governor Lincoln Chafee signed into law legislation mandating the detection and remediation of faults in the underground power delivery system in all areas within the state of Rhode Island where there are underground cables.  In the above image, Governor Chafee is flanked by the bill’s sponsors: Senator Rhoda Perry and Representative Michael Tarro.

The law calls for the identification of Contact Voltage Risk Zones and the immediate establishment of a plan to scan these areas within defined time limits using the best available technology.  The enactment of this law was a direct result of the death, by contact voltage, of a puppy in the Wayland Square shopping district of Providence in the aftermath of a series of severe winter snowfalls.  The conditions of snow, ice, slush and salt created the perfect storm of conditions to make lethal the compromised cable that ran under the sidewalk and street.   Luna died simply walking on asphalt and herein lies an element key to the wisdom of the Rhode Island legislators.  The language of this bill recognized that contact voltage is not limited to assets owned by a utility company.  Rather, this bill  recognizes that ALL objects in the vicinity of a damaged cable can become energized.  Therefore, the law calls for the testing, by optimal means, of ALL objects within the Contact Voltage Risk Zones that might become energized by a utility asset OR a privately owned piece of equipment.  Thus, going forward, sidewalks, storm drains, fences, mailboxes and handrails  – as well as –utility poles and manhole covers must be tested.

This bill had the support of Anthony (Bubba) and Nancy Green who came to RI and testified in its favor at both the House and Senate committee meetings on the legislation.  The Green’s lost their 14 year old daughter to contact voltage in 2006 when she touched a wire fence in a city park in Baltimore, Maryland.  The RIVMA and the RISPCA also testified in favor of this legislation.

We applaud the far sighted action of the RI Legislature and the Governor for working proactively to safeguard visitors to the Ocean State, citizens of Rhode Island and  their beloved pets.

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