Code of Virginia

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

§ 45.2-1646. Tidewater Virginia; drilling for gas or oil prohibited in certain areas.

A. In Tidewater Virginia, as defined in § 62.1-44.15:68, no person shall drill for gas or oil (i) within 500 feet of the shoreline of the waters of the Chesapeake Bay or any of its tributaries, as measured landward of the shoreline, or (ii) if it is farther than 500 feet from such shoreline, in any Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area, as defined in § 62.1-44.15:68, that a local government designates as a Resource Protection Area and incorporates into its local comprehensive plan. Resource Protection Areas shall be defined according to the criteria developed by the State Water Control Board pursuant to § 62.1-44.15:72.

B. If any person desires to drill for gas or oil in any area of Tidewater Virginia where drilling is not prohibited by the provisions of subsection A, he shall submit an environmental impact assessment to the Department as part of his application for a permit to drill. Such environmental impact assessment shall include:

1. The probabilities and consequences of accidental discharge of gas or oil into the environment during drilling, production, and transportation for:

a. Finfish, shellfish, and other marine or freshwater organisms;

b. Birds and other wildlife that use the air and water resources;

c. Air and water quality; and

d. Land and water resources;

2. Recommendations for minimizing any adverse economic, fiscal, or environmental impacts; and

3. An examination of the secondary environmental effects of induced economic development due to the drilling and production.

C. Upon receipt of an environmental impact assessment, the Department shall notify the Department of Environmental Quality to coordinate a review of the environmental impact assessment. DEQ shall:

1. Publish in the Virginia Register of Regulations a notice that is sufficient to identify the environmental impact assessment and provides an opportunity for public review of and comment on the assessment. The period for public review and comment shall not be less than 30 days from the date of publication;

2. Submit the environmental impact assessment to all appropriate state agencies to review the assessment and submit their comments to DEQ; and

3. Based upon the review by all appropriate state agencies and the public comments received, submit findings and recommendations to the Department within 90 days after notification and receipt of the environmental impact assessment from the Department.

D. The Department shall not grant a permit under § 45.2-1631 until it has considered the findings and recommendations of DEQ.

E. DEQ shall, in conjunction with other state agencies and in conformance with the Administrative Process Act (§ 2.2-4000 et seq.), develop criteria and procedures to assure the orderly preparation and evaluation of environmental impact assessments required by this section.

F. A person may drill an exploratory well or a gas well in any area of Tidewater Virginia where drilling is not prohibited by the provisions of subsection A only if:

1. For directional drilling, the person has the permission of the owners of all lands to be directionally drilled into;

2. The person files an oil discharge contingency plan and proof of financial responsibility to implement the plan, both already filed with and approved by the State Water Control Board. For purposes of this section, such oil discharge contingency plan shall comply with the requirements set forth in § 62.1-44.34:15. The State Water Control Board's regulations governing the amount of any financial responsibility required shall take into account the type of operation, the location of the well, the risk of discharge or accidental release, the potential damage or injury to state waters or sensitive natural resource features or the impairment of their beneficial use that may result from discharge or release, the potential cost of containment and cleanup, and the nature and degree of injury or interference with general health, welfare, and property that may result from discharge or accidental release;

3. All land-disturbing activities resulting from the construction and operation of the permanent facilities necessary to implement the contingency plan and the area within the berm will be located outside any area described in subsection A;

4. The drilling site is stabilized with boards, gravel, or other materials that will result in minimal amounts of runoff;

5. Persons certified in blowout prevention are present at all times during drilling;

6. Conductor pipe is set as necessary from the surface;

7. Casing is set and pressure-grouted from the surface to a point at least 2,500 feet below the surface or 300 feet below the deepest known groundwater, as defined in § 62.1-255, for a beneficial use, as defined in § 62.1-10, whichever is deeper;

8. Freshwater-based drilling mud is used during drilling;

9. There is no onsite disposal of drilling muds, produced contaminated fluids, waste contaminated fluids, or other contaminated fluids;

10. Multiple blow-out preventers are employed; and

11. The person complies with all requirements of Chapter 16 (§ 45.2-1600 et seq.) and regulations adopted thereunder.

G. The provisions of subsection A and subdivisions F 1 and 4 through 9 shall be enforced consistent with the requirements of Chapter 16 (§ 45.2-1600 et seq.).

H. If exploration activities in Tidewater Virginia result in a finding by the Director that production of commercially recoverable quantities of oil is likely and imminent, the Director shall notify the Secretary of Commerce and Trade and the Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources. At that time, the Secretaries shall develop a joint report to the Governor and the General Assembly assessing the environmental risks and safeguards, transportation issues, state-of-the-art oil production well technology, economic impacts, regulatory initiatives, operational standards, and other matters related to the production of oil in the region. No permit for an oil production well shall be issued until (i) the Governor has had an opportunity to review the report and make recommendations, in the public interest, for legislative and regulatory changes; (ii) the General Assembly, during the next upcoming regular session, has acted on the Governor's recommendations or on its own initiatives; and (iii) any resulting legislation has become effective. The report by the Secretaries and the Governor's recommendations shall be completed within 18 months of the notification of the Secretaries of the findings of the Director.

1989, c. 325; § 62.1-195.1; 1990, c. 967; 1992, cc. 480, 887; 1993, c. 239; 1994, c. 957; 2012, cc. 785, 819; 2013, cc. 756, 793; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, cc. 387, 401.

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.