Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 45.2. Mines, Minerals, and Energy
Chapter 16. Virginia Gas and Oil Act

§ 45.2-1631. Permit required; gas, oil, or geophysical operations; coalbed methane gas wells; environmental assessment.

A. No person shall commence any ground-disturbing activity for a well, gathering pipeline, geophysical exploration, or associated activity, facility, or structure without first having obtained from the Director a permit to conduct such activity. Every permit application or permit modification application filed with the Director shall be verified by the permit applicant and shall contain all data, maps, plats, plans, and other information as required by regulation or the Director.

B. For each permit issued on or after July 1, 1996, a new permit issued by the Director shall be issued only for the following activities: geophysical operations, drilling, casing, equipping, stimulating, producing, reworking an initially productive zone, plugging a well, or construction and operation of a gathering pipeline. An application for a new permit to conduct geophysical operations shall be accompanied by an application fee of $130. An application for a new permit for any other activity shall be accompanied by an application fee of $600.

C. For a permit issued prior to July 1, 1996, prior to commencing any reworking, deepening, or plugging of a well, or other activity not previously approved on the permitted site, a permittee shall first obtain a permit modification from the Director. Each application for a permit modification shall be accompanied by a permit modification fee of $300. For a permit issued on or after July 1, 1996, prior to commencing any new zone completion, a permittee shall first obtain a permit modification from the Director.

D. Every permit and all operations provided for under this section shall conform to the regulations and orders of the Director and the Board. If permit terms or conditions required or provided for under this article are in conflict with any provision of a conservation order issued pursuant to the provisions of Article 2 (§ 45.2-1613 et seq.), the terms or conditions of the permit shall control. In such event, the operator shall return to the Board for reconsideration of the conservation order in light of the conflicting permit. Every permittee shall be responsible for all operations, activities, or disturbances associated with the permitted site.

E. No permit or permit modification shall be issued by the Director until he has received from the applicant a written certification that (i) all notice requirements of this article have been complied with, together with proof thereof, and (ii) the applicant has the right to conduct the operations as set forth in the application and operations plan.

F. A permit is required to drill any coalbed methane gas well or to convert any methane drainage borehole into a coalbed methane gas well. In addition to the other requirements of this section, every permit application for a coalbed methane gas well shall include:

1. The method that the coalbed methane gas well operator will use to stimulate the well.

2. a. A signed consent from the coal operator of each coal seam that is located within (i) 750 horizontal feet of the proposed well location that the applicant proposes to stimulate or (ii) 100 vertical feet above or below a coal-bearing stratum that the applicant proposes to stimulate.

b. The consent required by this subsection may be (i) contained in a lease or other such agreement; (ii) contained in an instrument of title; or (iii) in any case where a coal operator cannot be located or identified and the operator has complied with § 45.2-1618, provided by a pooling order entered pursuant to § 45.2-1620 or 45.2-1622 if such order contains a finding that the operator has exercised due diligence in attempting to identify and locate the coal operator, contained in such order. The consent required by this subsection shall be deemed to be granted for any tract where title to the coal is held by multiple owners if the applicant has obtained consent to stimulate from the cotenants holding a majority interest in the tract and none of the coal cotenants has leased the tract for coal development. The requirement of signed consent contained in this subsection shall in no way be considered to impair, abridge, or affect any contractual rights or objections arising out of a coalbed methane gas contract or coalbed methane gas lease entered into prior to January 1, 1990, between the applicant and any coal operator or any extension or renewal thereto, and the existence of such lease or contractual arrangement and any extension or renewal thereto shall constitute a waiver of the requirement for the applicant to file an additional signed consent.

3. The unit map, if any, approved by the Board.

G. No permit that is required by this chapter for an activity to be conducted within an area of Tidewater Virginia where drilling is authorized under subsection B of § 45.2-1646 shall be granted until the environmental impact assessment required by § 45.2-1646 has been conducted and the assessment has been reviewed by the Department.

H. The applicant for a permit for a gathering pipeline, oil or gas well, or coalbed methane well shall identify in the permit application any cemetery, as identified on a United States Geological Survey topographic map or located by routine field review, within 100 feet of the permitted activity.

I. The operator of any coalbed methane well drilled within 250 feet of a cemetery shall comply with a written request of any person owning an interest in a private cemetery or the authorized agent of a public cemetery that the operator of such well suspend operations for a period from two hours before to two hours after any burial service that takes place on the surface area of such cemetery. However, if the well operator or a mine operator determines that such suspension of operations will have an adverse effect on the safety of the well operations or mining operations, the operator shall be under no obligation to comply with the request, and operation of the well shall continue.

1982, c. 347, § 45.1-311; 1985, c. 601; 1987, c. 452; 1988, c. 160, § 45.1-311.1; 1990, cc. 92, 967, § 45.1-361.29; 1994, c. 957; 1995, c. 269; 1996, c. 854; 1997, cc. 759, 765; 1998, c. 229; 2003, cc. 542, 550; 2008, c. 227; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 387.

The chapters of the acts of assembly referenced in the historical citation at the end of this section may not constitute a comprehensive list of such chapters and may exclude chapters whose provisions have expired.