Code of Virginia

Creating a Report: Check the sections you'd like to appear in the report, then use the "Create Report" button at the bottom of the page to generate your report. Once the report is generated you'll then have the option to download it as a pdf, print or email the report.

Code of Virginia
Title 56. Public Service Companies
Chapter 10. Heat, Light, Power, Water and Other Utility Companies Generally
12/5/2022

Article 5. Pipelines and Other Works.

§ 56-257. Manner of installing underground utility lines.

A. Every operator, as defined in § 56-265.15, having the right to install underground utility lines, as defined in § 56-265.15, except interstate gas pipelines subject to regulation by the U.S. Department of Transportation, shall install such underground utility lines in accordance with accepted industry standards. Such standards shall include, as applicable, standards established by the National Electric Safety Code, the Commission's pipeline safety regulations, the Department of Health's waterworks regulations (12VAC5-590-10 et seq.), and standards established by the Utility Industry Coalition of Virginia.

B. The Commission shall promulgate any rules or regulations necessary to enforce the provisions of this section as to those operators that do not comply with such accepted industry standards.

C. This section shall not authorize the Commission to order action by, or impose penalties on, any county, city or town. However, the Commission shall inform counties, cities and towns of alleged violations by the locality of the accepted industry standards or regulations adopted under this section and, at the request of the locality, suggest corrective action.

Code 1919, § 4059; 1996, c. 278; 2000, c. 779.

§ 56-257.1. Means of locating nonmetallic underground conduits.

Any plastic or other nonmetallic pressurized conduit installed underground on and after July 1, 1976, shall have affixed thereto a wire conductive of electricity or some other means of locating the conduit while it is underground.

1976, c. 556.

§ 56-257.2. Gas pipeline safety.

A. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Commission shall have the authority to regulate the safety of master-metered gas systems, landfill gas transmission or distribution facilities transmitting or distributing landfill gas off premises from a solid waste management facility permitted by the Department of Environmental Quality, and other gas pipeline facilities used in intrastate pipeline transportation, all as defined in the federal regulations promulgated under 49 U.S.C. § 60101 et seq., as amended, and the federal pipeline safety laws, owned or operated by any person, limited liability company, business entity or association of individuals. The authority granted herein shall be exercised in a manner that is not inconsistent with the above-referenced federal regulations and pipeline safety laws.

This subsection shall not apply to gas systems and pipeline facilities owned or operated by any county, city, or town.

B. For the purposes of pipeline facilities used in the intrastate transportation of gas, all as defined in the federal regulations promulgated under 49 U.S.C. § 60101 et seq., as amended, and the federal pipeline safety laws, and notwithstanding any other provision of law, any person, limited liability company, business entity or association of individuals failing or refusing to obey Commission orders relating to the adoption or enforcement of regulations for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of intrastate pipeline facilities and temporary or permanent injunctions issued by the Commission shall be fined such sums not exceeding the fines and penalties specified by 49 U.S.C. § 60122 (a)(1), as amended. Should the operation of such order be suspended pending an appeal, the period of such suspension shall not be computed against the person in the matter of his liability to fines or penalties. The authority granted herein shall be exercised in a manner that is not inconsistent with the above-referenced federal regulations and pipeline safety laws.

This subsection shall not apply to gas systems and pipeline facilities owned or operated by any county, city, or town.

C. With respect to the gas systems and pipeline facilities owned or operated by any county, city, or town, the Commission is authorized to act for the United States Secretary of Transportation to conduct safety inspections pursuant to the federal pipeline safety laws, 49 U.S.C. § 60101 et seq., to the extent authorized by certification or agreement with the Secretary under 49 U.S.C. § 60106 of the federal pipeline safety laws, 49 U.S.C. § 60101 et seq., as amended. After each inspection, an exit interview with any county, city, or town shall be conducted prior to promptly reporting to the United States Department of Transportation. This subsection shall not authorize the Commission to impose civil penalties or fines on any county, city, or town and shall not authorize the Commission to exercise jurisdiction over the rates, charges, services, facilities, or service territory of any county, city, or town providing gas service except as is otherwise provided by law.

1994, c. 12; 2005, c. 35.

§ 56-257.2:1. Projects presenting material risk to public safety; licensed professional engineers; regulations.

The Commission shall promulgate regulations requiring that a licensed professional engineer exercise responsible charge, as defined in § 54.1-400, over engineering projects that (i) involve gas pipeline facilities, as defined in the federal regulations promulgated under 49 U.S.C § 60101 et seq., as amended and adopted by the State Corporation Commission, and the federal pipeline safety laws, and (ii) may present a material risk to public safety.

2020, c. 822.

§ 56-257.3. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 2005, c. 35.

§ 56-257.4. Report by the State Corporation Commission on investigation of natural gas utilities incident.

The Commission shall, upon written request, make available for public inspection within 30 days of the receipt of the request a report regarding the finalized enforcement action or investigation related to the death or personal injury necessitating inpatient hospitalization of any person, or estimated damage to property exceeding $50,000, that was the direct result of a leak or other incident involving the intrastate facilities of a natural gas utility operator. The report shall only be available for public inspection, upon written request, after the Commission has concluded the enforcement action or investigation. The report shall not reveal:

1. Infrastructure information for, or the location or operation of security or utility equipment and systems of, any public or private building, structure, or information storage facility;

2. Risk assessment information not provided to the public by the utility operator;

3. Specific security plans and measures of an entity, facility, building structure, information technology system, or software program;

4. Information confidential or sensitive in nature;

5. Information proprietary to the natural gas utility operator; or

6. Information that would jeopardize the safety or security of any (i) person; (ii) governmental facility, building, or structure; or (iii) private commercial office, residential, or retail building.

2019, c. 501.

§ 56-257.5. Manner of installing underground utility lines through agricultural operation.

A. For purposes of this section:

"Topsoil" means at least 12 inches of the surface soil layer or a six-inch layer of soil that includes the surface soil and the unconsolidated subsoil immediately below it.

"Underground utility line" means an underground pipeline or conduit of an inside diameter greater than 12 inches or an underground electrical transmission or distribution line of a capacity greater than 115 kilovolts.

B. Every operator, as defined in § 56-265.15, having the right to install an underground utility line shall install such underground utility line in accordance with regulations adopted pursuant to subsection C.

C. The Commission shall adopt regulations applicable to any operator that is subject to the provisions of subsection B. The regulations shall require that if such operator, in the course of installing the underground utility line, disturbs an area of land that measures 10,000 square feet or more and constitutes one or more agricultural operations, as defined in § 3.2-300, the operator shall, if desired by the landowner or land management agency, either (i) redistribute the topsoil removed from the disturbed area to graded areas elsewhere on the land of the affected property owner or (ii) if insufficient graded areas are available as sites for such redistribution, stockpile the topsoil removed from the disturbed area until it can be redistributed on the area initially disturbed. The regulations shall require that redistributed topsoil be placed on scarified land and that stockpiled topsoil be protected from erosion and compaction. If the property owner does not agree, then the topsoil shall be disposed of in accordance with applicable law.

2020, c. 666.

§ 56-258. Who to permit laying of pipelines in roads.

The Commissioner of Highways or the board of supervisors or other governing body in any county that has withdrawn its county roads from the secondary system of state highways is authorized to enter into contract with water companies or other corporations or persons to lay water pipelines along the rights-of-way of public roadways and turnpikes. Such water pipelines shall be laid in such manner as not to obstruct passage thereon when completed, and in any such contract the Commissioner of Highways or any such board of supervisors or other governing body, as the case may be, shall provide that the parties so laying such pipelines shall, at all times, exercise reasonable care not to obstruct such roadways while laying, repairing or replacing such pipe.

Code 1919, § 4060; 2013, cc. 585, 646.

§ 56-259. Rights-of-way, etc., may be contracted for; location of easements of public service corporations.

A. Any corporation of the character mentioned in this chapter or in Chapter 2 (§ 56-49 et seq.) may contract with any person or corporation, the owner of lands, or of any interest, franchise, privilege, or easement therein, over, under, or through which any pipeline transmitting petroleum products or natural gas, power or telephone line, sewer or water main or similar works is to be constructed, for the right-of-way for such line, sewer, main or works, and for sufficient land for its necessary offices, plant, or plants, works, stations and structures. All such contracts shall specify with reasonable particularity and definiteness the location of such easement of right-of-way; provided, however, that this provision shall not apply to contracts between any such corporation and any political subdivision of this Commonwealth, but any such corporation shall provide the location of its facilities on land owned by such a political subdivision upon request of such political subdivision.

B. The location of any easement of right-of-way of any public service corporation shall be as specified in the instrument by which such easement was conveyed to such public service corporation; provided that, with respect to all such easements granted after December 31, 1968, if such location is not specified by metes and bounds or by reference to a center line or survey line showing courses and distances from some ascertainable point of beginning, the location of such easement shall be determined by reference to the facilities constructed thereon, and the center line of those facilities shall be the center line of the easement.

C. Prior to acquiring any easement of right-of-way, public service corporations will consider the feasibility of locating such facilities on, over, or under existing easements of rights-of-way. In the event any public service corporation owning a right-of-way shall deny a request of any other public service corporation for joint use of that right-of-way, the corporation whose request is denied shall have the right, within thirty days after the denial to apply to the Commission for an order requiring such joint use. The Commission shall conduct a hearing on such application and shall direct the corporation owning the right-of-way to allow joint use if the Commission finds that such joint use is reasonable and that the present or future public utility service of such corporation will not be adversely affected by such joint use. In making such determination, the Commission may establish the terms and conditions for such joint use, including, without limitation, a requirement of compensation by the utility making the request to the utility owning the right-of-way, if the Commission finds such a requirement to be appropriate.

D. In any case involving an application for a certificate pursuant to § 56-265.2, the governing body of each locality in which a gas pipeline or electrical transmission line would be located shall have the right to request the Commission to consider directing a joint use of right-of-way within that locality pursuant to the standards in subsection C of this section, provided that the governing body shall file its request no later than the date for public comment on the application established by the Commission.

E. A renewable generator, as defined in § 56-614, should where feasible locate distribution facilities, as defined in § 56-614, that are required to connect its renewable energy facility that generates electricity to the electric distribution grid, to distribute steam generated at such facility, or to distribute its landfill gas to customers or a natural gas distribution or transmission pipeline, as applicable, on, over, or under existing easements of rights-of-way of a public service corporation. The renewable generator shall request joint use of the right-of-way from the public service corporation that owns the easement of right-of-way and shall offer to enter into an agreement that will specify the terms and conditions, including rental, under which such joint use will occur. The compensation to be paid to the public service corporation for such joint use shall be as negotiated between the public service corporation and the renewable generator. If any public service corporation owning an easement of right-of-way shall deny a request for the joint use of that right-of-way, the renewable generator shall have the right, exercisable within 30 days after the denial, to apply to the Commission for an order requiring such joint use. The Commission shall conduct a hearing on such application and shall direct the public service corporation owning the easement of right-of-way to allow joint use if the Commission finds that such joint use is reasonable and that the present or future public utility service of such corporation will not be adversely affected by such joint use. In making such determination, the Commission may establish the terms and conditions for such joint use, including, without limitation, the rental compensation that the renewable generator shall pay to the public service corporation owning the easement of right-of-way. The provisions of this subsection shall not apply to railroads.

Code 1919, § 4062; 1964, c. 523; 1968, c. 534; 1972, c. 519; 1979, c. 309; 2001, cc. 745, 752; 2009, c. 807.

§ 56-259.1. Instruments conveying easements to public service corporations.

No instrument executed by a landowner after January 1, 2002, by which an easement of right of way in land is conveyed to a public service corporation shall be accepted for recordation in any Clerk's office that maintains property records unless it bears the following provision:

"NOTICE TO LANDOWNER: You are conveying rights to a public service corporation. A public service corporation may have the right to obtain some or all of these rights through exercise of eminent domain. To the extent that any of the rights being conveyed are not subject to eminent domain, you have the right to choose not to convey those rights and you could not be compelled to do so. You have the right to negotiate compensation for any rights that you are voluntarily conveying."

If such an instrument does not bear such a notice provision but is accepted for recordation in any Clerk's office, the absence of such notice provision shall not affect the validity or enforceability of such instrument.

2001, c. 751.

§ 56-260. Compensation for damages.

If any company of the character mentioned in this chapter and such owner as is referred to in § 56-259 cannot agree on the terms of such contract as is referred to in § 56-259, the company may acquire such right-of-way in the manner provided by the laws of this Commonwealth for the exercise of the right of eminent domain; and in case any person is damaged in his property along the line of any such public road, highway, park, street, avenue, or alley by any such use or occupation of the same, by any company of the character mentioned in this chapter, such corporation shall, before using or occupying with its works such public roads, highways, parks, streets, avenues, or alleys, make compensation therefor to the persons so damaged. If the parties cannot agree upon the same, such compensation shall be ascertained in the mode prescribed by law for the exercise of the right of eminent domain.

Code 1919, § 4063.

§ 56-260.1. Contract provisions exempting company from liability unlawful.

No contract for an easement of right-of-way for a pipeline, power or telephone line, sewer, main or similar works shall contain any provision which purports to exempt the corporation erecting, laying or installing the same from liability for injuries sustained by any person or property by reason of the laying, constructing, maintaining, operating, repairing, altering, replacing or removal of, or any failure or defect in, such line, sewer, main or works. Any such provision in any such contract is hereby declared to be against public policy and shall be null and void and unenforceable; provided, that this provision shall not apply as to any cause of action arising prior to June 26, 1964.

1964, c. 523.