Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 56. Public Service Companies
Chapter 10.3. Underground Utility Damage Prevention Act

§ 56-265.32. Commission to impose civil penalties for certain violations; establishment of Underground Utility Damage Prevention Special Fund.

A. The Commission may, by judgment entered after a hearing on notice duly served on any person not less than 30 days before the date of the hearing, impose a civil penalty not exceeding $10,000 for each violation of subsection A of § 56-265.17 and $5,000 for all other violations of this chapter, if it is proved that the person violated any of the provisions of this chapter as a result of a failure to exercise reasonable care. Any proceeding or civil penalty undertaken pursuant to this section shall not prevent nor preempt the right of any party to obtain civil damages for personal injury or property damage in private causes of action. This subsection shall not authorize the Commission to impose civil penalties on any county, city, town, or other political subdivision. However, the Commission shall inform the counties, cities, towns, and other political subdivisions of reports of alleged violations involving the locality or political subdivision and, at the request of the locality or political subdivision, suggest corrective action.

B. If the Commission asserts there is recurring noncompliance with any of the provisions of this chapter by a county, city, town, or other political subdivision, the Commission, upon written notice to the chairman of such operator's board or, in the case of a city or town, the mayor of such operator's council, and to such operator's chief executive officer, may require a written response by such person or his designee. Such response shall be made within 30 days of the operator's receipt of written notice from the Commission. The response shall confirm that the operator will comply promptly or explain why it disputes any assertion by the Commission of noncompliance. If the operator is not able to return to compliance promptly, the operator shall describe its plan to achieve compliance in a corrective action plan to be submitted to the Commission no later than 60 days after the receipt of the written notice. Following submittal of a corrective action plan, the Commission may convene a hearing for the purpose of receiving additional evidence, determining whether noncompliance has occurred, and determining further suggested corrective action. The Commission may also convene such a hearing if the operator fails to provide a written response or a corrective action plan as required by this subsection, or provides a response that disputes the Commission's assertions. Nothing in this section shall limit the Commission's powers under this chapter with respect to persons who are not counties, cities, towns, or political subdivisions of the Commonwealth.

C. The Underground Utility Damage Prevention Special Fund (hereinafter referred to as Special Fund) is hereby established as a revolving fund to be used by the Commission for administering the regulatory program authorized by this chapter. The Special Fund shall be composed entirely of funds generated by and for the enforcement of this chapter. Enforcement of this chapter also includes education and outreach provided by the Commission for training and educational programs for excavators, operators, utility line locators, and other persons. Excess funds shall be used to support any one or more of the following: (i) public awareness programs established by a notification center pursuant to subsection B of § 56-265.16:1; (ii) training and education programs for excavators, operators, line locators, and other persons; and (iii) programs providing incentives for excavators, operators, line locators, and other persons to reduce the number and severity of violations of the Act. The Commission shall determine the appropriate allocation of any excess funds among such programs, and shall establish required elements for any program established under clause (ii) or (iii).

D. All civil penalties collected pursuant to this section shall be deposited into the Underground Utility Damage Prevention Special Fund. Interest earned on the fund shall be credited to the Special Fund. The Special Fund shall be established on the books of the Commission comptroller and any funds remaining in the Underground Utility Damage Prevention Special Fund at the end of the fiscal year shall not revert to the general fund, but shall remain in the Special Fund.

1994, c. 890; 2001, c. 351; 2002, c. 348; 2010, c. 205; 2023, cc. 299, 300.

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.