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Code of Virginia
Title 56. Public Service Companies
Chapter 10.1. Utility Facilities Act
6/5/2020

§ 56-265.4:6. Furnishing non-utility gas service.

A. In this section the following terms shall have the following meanings:

"Affiliated interest" shall have the same meaning as set forth in § 56-76 and shall be applied in this statute to non-utility gas service providers.

"Commercial customer" means any person that purchases non-utility gas service for its own consumption at one or more metering points or nonmetered points of delivery located in the Commonwealth and who if served by a natural gas utility would be classified as a nonresidential customer under the applicable natural gas utility's tariff.

"Municipally-owned gas service" means the sale and distribution of natural gas by a municipal corporation that has the authority to provide natural gas distribution service through the provisions of its charter.

"Natural gas line" means a distribution or transmission pipeline owned and operated by the natural gas utility and subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission but excluding such lines that serve only a single residence or retail establishment.

"Natural gas utility" or "utility" means an investor-owned public service company engaged in the business of furnishing natural gas service to the public and which is regulated as to rates and service pursuant to this title.

"Non-utility gas service" means the sale and distribution of propane, propane-air mixtures, or other natural or manufactured gas to two or more customers by way of underground or aboveground distribution lines by a person other than a natural gas utility or an affiliated interest of a natural gas utility, master meter operator, or any person operating in compliance with § 56-1.2.

"Non-utility gas service provider" means a person, other than a natural gas utility, providing non-utility gas service.

"Person" means any individual, corporation, partnership, association, company, business trust, joint venture or other private legal entity.

"Pipeline safety standards" means all gas pipeline safety requirements established pursuant to § 56-257.2.

"Residential customer" means any person that purchases non-utility gas service for its own consumption at one or more metering points or nonmetered points of delivery located in the Commonwealth and who if served by a natural gas utility would be classified as a residential customer under the applicable natural gas utility's tariff.

B. A person, individually or together with its affiliated interests, other than the natural gas utility that holds the certificate to provide natural gas service in a particular territory or one of its affiliated interests, shall apply to the Commission for and obtain approval prior to providing non-utility gas service to:

1. Two or more residential or commercial customers located one-half mile or less from any existing underground natural gas line operated by a utility under the jurisdiction of the Commission;

2. More than 10 residential or two commercial customers located more than one-half mile but within one mile or less from any existing underground natural gas line operated by a utility under the jurisdiction of the Commission;

3. More than 20 residential or five commercial customers located more than one mile but within three miles or less from any existing underground natural gas line operated by a utility under the jurisdiction of the Commission; or

4. More than 50 residential or 10 commercial customers located more than three miles but no more than five miles from an existing underground natural gas line operated by a utility under the jurisdiction of the Commission.

Approval of any application to provide non-utility gas service pursuant to this section shall be granted by the Commission only after opportunity for a hearing and after due notice to the natural gas utility that holds the certificate to provide service in the defined geographic area proposed to be served. The Commission shall approve an application to provide non-utility gas service upon finding that: (i) the natural gas utility that holds the certificate to provide natural gas service in the defined geographic area proposed to be served is not currently offering service to the area desired for non-utility gas service and is unable to extend natural gas utility service to the requested area within a reasonable period of time; and (ii) the provision of non-utility gas service in the defined geographic area proposed to be served, and to the estimated number of customers defined in the application, is in the public interest.

Any order approving an application to provide non-utility gas service pursuant to this section shall define the geographic area to be covered and the maximum number of customers to whom the non-utility gas service provider can provide service before having to apply to the Commission for a revised order. The order approving an application to provide non-utility gas service shall also provide for compliance with all pipeline safety standards; however, nothing in the order shall authorize the Commission to exercise jurisdiction over the rates, charges, or services being offered in conjunction with non-utility gas service by a non-utility gas service provider. Further, except as provided in this section, approval of an application to provide non-utility gas service shall not infringe upon or diminish the rights of the natural gas utility that holds the certificate to provide natural gas service in the specified area.

Any fully constructed and operational non-utility gas service system as of April 8, 2009, shall be exempt from the requirements of this subsection.

C. A non-utility gas service provider shall comply with the provisions of subsection B if any proposed new customers (i) are located in or are adjacent to a residential subdivision, commercial or mixed-use development, currently being provided non-utility gas service by that non-utility gas service provider and (ii) the number of such new customers, when added to the number of then existing customers of such non-utility gas service provider, individually or together with its affiliated interests, located in the adjacent residential subdivision, commercial or mixed-use development, would exceed the threshold number of customers for any of the geographical areas described in subsection B.

D. In any instance in which customers proposed to be served by a non-utility gas service provider, individually or together with its affiliated interests, are in the same residential subdivision, commercial or mixed-use development, or any phase thereof, and that residential subdivision, commercial or mixed use development, including all parts and phases thereof, straddles any of the distance thresholds set forth in subsection B, then all of the customers in all parts and phases of such residential subdivision, commercial or mixed-use development shall be deemed to be within the distance from the underground natural gas line operated by a utility under the jurisdiction of the Commission applicable to the customer located in such residential subdivision, commercial or mixed-use development that is located closest to such underground natural gas line operated by a utility under the jurisdiction of the Commission.

E. The distance threshold set forth in subsection B shall be measured in a linear manner and shall be based upon the underground natural gas lines operated by a utility under the jurisdiction of the Commission that are in existence at the time the non-utility gas service provider applies for Commission approval pursuant to subsection B, if applicable, or at the time the non-utility gas service provider applies for the initial local government approval necessary to construct its distribution lines required to serve the proposed new customers, whichever is earlier.

F. All non-utility gas service providers shall provide notice to the Commission of any and all non-utility gas service that is subject to pipeline safety standards and is being provided to two or more customers in the Commonwealth and shall provide notice of the construction of new non-utility gas service to the Commission no later than 30 days prior to commencing construction of such system. Any non-utility gas service provider that is required to provide such notice shall be subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission for the purpose of ensuring compliance with the pipeline safety standards and subject to any penalties that may be applicable under § 56-257.2. Upon request of the Commission, the non-utility gas service provider shall provide, within 30 days of such request, documentation to show compliance with the requirements of the pipeline safety standards.

G. Any municipal corporation that provides municipally-owned gas service to residential or commercial customers located within an area where a natural gas utility holds a certificate to provide service, must have written authorization from that certificate holder to provide such service which authorization shall not be unreasonably withheld. The written authorization shall define the geographic area to be served by the municipally-owned gas service provider. If authorization is withheld, the natural gas utility shall provide a written justification for the decision to the municipally-owned gas service provider. Any decision to withhold authorization shall be subject to review by the Commission upon petition by a customer seeking natural gas service. Any natural gas utility that provides written permission to a municipal corporation to provide municipally-owned gas service within a territory where it holds a certificate shall provide a written copy of the authorization to the Commission.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, a municipally-owned gas service provider shall not be required to obtain consent to i) provide natural gas service to facilities or property owned in whole or in part by the municipal corporation, or ii) install lines that serve only a single residential customer.

A municipally-owned gas service provider which fails to comply with this subsection shall be subject to relief in a court having competent jurisdiction. Nothing herein shall authorize the Commission to impose penalties or fines on any municipal corporation.

Any fully constructed and operational municipally-owned gas service system in place as of April 8, 2009, shall be exempt from the requirements of this subsection.

H. The Commission is authorized to promulgate any rules consistent with and necessary to implement this section other than subsection G.

I. The provision of non-utility gas service without complying with subsection B shall be punishable by a penalty of up to $500 per day to be imposed and collected by the Commission, in addition to any injunctive or other non-monetary penalties provided by law.

2009, c. 794.

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.