Why Aren’t Power Lines Underground: Here’s What To Know

Why Aren’t Power Lines Underground: Here's What To Know

Cost not safety or continuity of electrical service is the reason that power lines are not underground in the U.S. Burying them below ground would eliminate the electrocution danger created by downed power wires and prevent or minimize outages during storms. In the U.S., power lines are not underground primarily because of cost and utilities have been fierce opponents of efforts to bury them below ground.

Please contact your electric utility company with questions about power lines – whether they are above or below ground. Unfortunately, the Electrocution Lawyers can only help if someone has suffered a shock injury or electrocution. For a non-injury-related legal issue, you should contact your local utility company. Your state bar also sometimes can refer you to an attorney that focuses on a specific non-injury related legal need.

The costs of changing over from having power wires above ground would be significant in the short-term, but putting power lines underground in the long-term would be an infrastructure investment that would pay off in many ways. In other important respects, such as safety, burying power lines would pay immediately in saving citizen’s lives and utility workers’ lives as well as many of the third-party contractors who are electrocuted and killed every year by downed power lines. Burying power lines would also provide for more reliable service and largely prevent the types of costly power outages that we have witnessed in recent years.

Perhaps you could say that I’m an electrocution lawyer who is pushing for my own obsolescence, but after three decades of litigating electrocution cases for people injured and killed, I’d love to see these tragedies end. It’s why I write this safety blog and it’s why I’ve spent so much time working on preventing electrocution and shock injury cases in my career.

Why are power lines above ground?

The electric utilities will likely say that power lines are above ground because they are easier to repair and maintain. They will likely fail to mention it is also cheaper for them. Even though having power lines underground would save lives and protect equipment, the utilities do not want to make the investment.

Countries with underground power lines

Countries with underground power lines include Germany and the Netherlands. It is significant that these countries do not experience the same risk of power outages and electricity-related injuries and death due to power line dangers that countries such as the U.S. with above-ground power lines do.

Questioning why they aren’t buried below ground

Many of the legal experts I work with in electrocution lawsuits will examine a given case from a number of different angles and perspectives. Some of these experts look at electrocution lawsuits caused by above ground power lines as akin to product-liability defective-design cases and ask the same question that so many people who inspect and maintain power lines will ask:

“Given the extremely serious risk of electrocution or shock, why aren’t power lines in the U.S. buried underground?”

Dangers of keeping power lines above ground

When utility power lines are above ground, people are exposed to the risk of electrocution and electric shock injury due to downed or faulty power wires and defective equipment. Storms and trees knock down cables and the elements cause deterioration of an already inadequately maintained infrastructure.

These dangerous conditions are what lead to the deaths and injuries. They also lead to electrocution lawsuits by the families of unsuspecting children, homeowners, utility workers and lineman and construction workers.

Does the cost of putting them below ground outweigh the public’s safety?

The main reason that utility companies will not bury power lines underground is cost. Research shows that the price for running a typical overhead power cable is approximately $100,000 per mile and that the price for burying those same wires underground would increase by 10 times or more.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission concluded that transitioning to underground wires would take 25 years and increase electricity rates by 125%.

It should be noted, however, as utility company defense lawyers like to point out, that buried power distribution service is not completely feasible in some geographical/geological areas of the U.S., due to conditions such as foreseeable flooding and locations with especially rocky subsoil.

But the costliness of burying them below ground must be weighed against the clear benefits: There will be far fewer electrical injuries and electrocution deaths if hazards like this are drastically reduced and/or eliminated.

These are important infrastructure investments that not only help protect a failing and crumbling energy grid, but they are “shovel-ready” projects that will save lives and prevent costly litigation and heart-rending tragedies.

Burying overhead lines below ground will reduce power outages

In addition to being safer, the public would also benefit from reduced power outages if power lines were buried underground. Storms – both summer and winter – as well as falling trees and limbs account for 40% of all power outages across the U.S.

Get help from an experienced electric shock injury lawyer

If you or someone you love is a victim of serious personal injury or death caused by electricity, you can call and speak with Jeff Feldman, arguably the nation’s most experienced electric shock accident and electrocution attorney. Jeff has litigated electrocution cases and electric shock injury cases in multiple states for laborers in the building industry, against utility companies for people injured by downed or low-hanging overhead power cables, and against hotels and businesses for people electrocuted in pools. Jeff also consults with injury lawyers throughout the country on electric shock injury and wrongful death cases involving electricity. You can call Jeff toll free at (800) 548-0043 for a free consultation.

Why Aren’t Power Lines Underground: Here\'s What To Know
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