Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 62.1. Waters of the State, Ports and Harbors
Chapter 3.1. State Water Control Law
12/1/2020

§ 62.1-44.34:18. Discharge of oil prohibited; liability for permitting discharge.

A. The discharge of oil into or upon state waters, lands, or storm drain systems within the Commonwealth is prohibited. For purposes of this section, discharges of oil into or upon state waters include discharges of oil that (i) violate applicable water quality standards or a permit or certificate of the Board or (ii) cause a film or sheen upon or discoloration of the surface of the water or adjoining shorelines or cause a sludge or emulsion to be deposited beneath the surface of the water or upon adjoining shorelines.

B. Any person discharging or causing or permitting a discharge of oil into or upon state waters, lands, or storm drain systems, discharging or causing or permitting a discharge of oil which may reasonably be expected to enter state waters, lands, or storm drain systems, or causing or permitting a substantial threat of such discharge and any operator of any facility, vehicle or vessel from which there is a discharge of oil into or upon state waters, lands, or storm drain systems, or from which there is a discharge of oil which may reasonably be expected to enter state waters, lands, or storm drain systems, or from which there is a substantial threat of such discharge shall, immediately upon learning of such discharge or threat of discharge, implement any applicable oil spill contingency plan approved under this article or take such other action as may be deemed necessary in the judgment of the Board to contain and clean up such discharge or threat of such discharge. In the event of such discharge or threat of discharge, if it cannot be determined immediately the person responsible therefor, or if the person is unwilling or unable to promptly contain and clean up such discharge or threat of discharge, the Board may take such action as is necessary to contain and clean up the discharge or threat of discharge, including the engagement of contractors or other competent persons.

C. Any person discharging or causing or permitting a discharge of oil into or upon state waters, lands, or storm drain systems within the Commonwealth, discharging or causing or permitting a discharge of oil which may reasonably be expected to enter state waters, lands, or storm drain systems, or causing or permitting a substantial threat of such discharge and any operator of any facility, vehicle or vessel from which there is a discharge of oil into or upon state waters, lands, or storm drain systems within the Commonwealth, or from which there is a discharge of oil which may reasonably be expected to enter state waters, lands, or storm drain systems, or from which there is a substantial threat of such discharge, shall be liable to:

1. The Commonwealth of Virginia or any political subdivision thereof for all costs and expenses of investigation, containment and cleanup incurred as a result of such discharge or threat of discharge, including, but not limited to, reasonable personnel, administrative, and equipment costs and expenses directly incurred by the Commonwealth or political subdivision, in and for preventing or alleviating damage, loss, hardship, or harm to human health or the environment caused or threatened to be caused by such discharge or threat of discharge;

2. The Commonwealth of Virginia or any political subdivision thereof for all damages to property of the Commonwealth of Virginia or the political subdivision caused by such discharge;

3. The Commonwealth of Virginia or any political subdivision thereof for loss of tax or other revenues caused by such discharge, and compensation for the loss of any natural resources that cannot be restocked, replenished or restored; and

4. Any person for injury or damage to person or property, real or personal, loss of income, loss of the means of producing income, or loss of the use of the damaged property for recreational, commercial, industrial, agricultural or other reasonable uses, caused by such discharge.

D. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a person who renders assistance in containment and cleanup of a discharge of oil prohibited by this article or a threat of such discharge shall be liable under this section for damages for personal injury and wrongful death caused by that person's negligence, and for damages caused by that person's gross negligence or willful misconduct, but shall not be liable for any other damages or costs and expenses of containment and cleanup under this section that are caused by the acts or omissions of such person in rendering such assistance; however, such liability provision shall not apply to a person discharging or causing or permitting a discharge of oil into or upon state waters, lands, or storm drain systems, discharging or causing or permitting a discharge of oil which may reasonably be expected to enter state waters, lands, or storm drain systems, or causing or permitting a substantial threat of such discharge, or to such person's employee. Nothing in this article shall affect the right of any person who renders such assistance to reimbursement for the costs of the containment and cleanup under the applicable provisions of this article or the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, as amended, or any rights that person may have against any third party whose acts or omissions caused or contributed to the prohibited discharge of oil or threat of such discharge. In addition, a person, other than an operator, who voluntarily, without compensation, and upon the request of a governmental agency, assists in the containment or cleanup of a discharge of oil, shall not be liable for any civil damages resulting from any act or omission on his part in the course of his rendering such assistance in good faith; nor shall any person or any organization exempt from income taxation under § 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code who notifies or assists in notifying the membership of such organization to assist in the containment or cleanup of a discharge of oil, voluntarily, without compensation, and upon the request of a government agency, be liable for any civil damages resulting from such notification rendered in good faith.

E. In any action brought under this article, it shall not be necessary for the Commonwealth, political subdivision or any person, to plead or prove negligence in any form or manner.

F. In any action brought under this article, the Commonwealth, political subdivision or any person, if a prevailing party, shall be entitled to an award of reasonable attorneys' fees and costs.

G. It shall be a defense to any action brought under subdivision C 2, C 3, or C 4 of this section that the discharge was caused solely by (i) an act of God, (ii) an act of war, (iii) a willful act or omission of a third party who is not an employee, agent or contractor of the operator, or (iv) any combination of the foregoing; however, this subsection shall not apply to any action brought against (a) a person or operator who failed or refused to report a discharge as required by § 62.1-44.34:19; or (b) a person or operator who failed or refused to cooperate fully in any containment and cleanup or who failed or refused to effect containment and cleanup as required by subsection B of this section.

H. In any action brought under subdivision C 2, C 3, or C 4 of this section, the total liability of a person or operator under this section for each discharge of oil or threat of such discharge shall not exceed the amount of financial responsibility required under § 62.1-44.34:16 or $10,000,000, whichever is greater; however, there shall be no limit of liability imposed under this section: (a) if the discharge of oil or threat of such discharge was caused by gross negligence or willful misconduct on the part of the person or the operator discharging or causing or permitting discharge or threat of discharge or by an agent, employee or contractor of such person or operator, or by the violation of any applicable safety, construction or operation regulations by such person or operator or an agent, employee or contractor of such person or operator; or (b) if the operator or person discharging or causing or permitting a discharge or threat of discharge failed or refused to report the discharge as required by § 62.1-44.34:19, or failed or refused to cooperate fully in any containment and cleanup or to effect containment and cleanup as required by subsection B of this section.

I. An operator that incurs costs pursuant to subsection B shall have the right to recover all or part of such costs in an action for contribution against any person or persons whose acts or omissions caused or contributed to the discharge or threat of discharge. In resolving contribution claims under this article, the court may allocate costs among the parties using such equitable factors as the court deems appropriate.

J. Any person or operator who pays costs or damages pursuant to subsection C shall have the right to recover all or part of such costs or damages in an action for contribution against any person or persons whose act or omission has caused or contributed to the discharge or threat of discharge. In resolving contribution claims under this article, the court may allocate costs or damages among the parties using such equitable factors as the court deems appropriate.

1973, c. 417; 1976, c. 51; 1978, c. 816; 1989, c. 627; 1990, cc. 917, 962; 1992, c. 456; 1998, cc. 90, 836.

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.