Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 56. Public Service Companies
Subtitle .
Chapter 17. State Operation of Public Utilities

Chapter 17. State Operation of Public Utilities.

§ 56-509. Uninterrupted functioning and operation of essential public utilities.

The continuous, uninterrupted, and proper functioning and operation of public utilities engaged in the business of furnishing water, light, heat, gas, electric power, transportation, communication, or any one or more of them to the people of Virginia are hereby declared to be essential to the public welfare, health, and safety. It is contrary to the public policy of the Commonwealth to permit any substantial impairment or suspension of the operation of any such utility, and it is the duty of the Commonwealth to exercise all available means and every power at its command to prevent the same so as to protect its citizens from any dangers, perils, calamities, or catastrophes that would result therefrom. Further, such utilities are declared to be of vital public interest, and as such, it is necessary that impairment or suspension of the operation of any such utility for any reason be prevented to the extent and by the means hereafter provided.

1952, c. 696; 2022, c. 234.

§ 56-510. Duty of Governor when there is threat of curtailment, interruption, etc., of operation.

Whenever in the judgment of the Governor there is an imminent threat of substantial curtailment, interruption or suspension in the operation of any public utility hereinabove mentioned he shall promptly make an investigation to determine whether, in his opinion, an actual curtailment, interruption or suspension of operation will constitute a serious menace or threat to the public health, safety or welfare, and if he concludes that it will, he shall forthwith issue an executive proclamation so declaring and stating that at the time of such curtailment, interruption or suspension of operation he will take immediate possession of the utility, its plant and equipment, or so much thereof as may be necessary, for the use of and operation by the Commonwealth. Where the Governor finds it advisable for effectuation of the purposes hereof he may by proclamation advance or defer such taking of possession.

1952, c. 696.

§ 56-511. Power of Governor to possess and operate utility.

The Governor may possess and operate such properties in the manner hereinafter provided and through such department or agency of the Commonwealth as he may designate.

1952, c. 696.

§ 56-512. Employment of utility employees by Commonwealth; information to be furnished.

If the Governor shall issue a proclamation of intention to take possession of and operate any such utility as provided herein, he shall immediately ascertain what positions of employment are necessary to be filled in order to operate the same to such extent as may be required to protect the public safety and welfare, and the duties incident to each such position, and shall ascertain from those persons then employed in such positions whether they will accept employment by the Commonwealth to perform like duties for the Commonwealth. Any such person who will accept employment by the State shall be entitled to be employed and to continue in such employment for such time as the Governor may determine. It shall be the duty of the management of any such utility to provide promptly and furnish to the Governor, upon his request, detailed information with respect to the positions necessary to be filled and the duties incident to or pertaining to each such position, and the name of the person presently holding same.

1952, c. 696.

§ 56-513. Replacement of utility employees unwilling to work for Commonwealth.

In the event that any person or persons then employed by the utility in any such necessary positions shall fail to indicate an intention to work for the Commonwealth in operating the utility, when inquiry is made of such person by the Governor or his agent, the Governor shall immediately institute measures to employ another person or other persons to perform the required duties of anyone not indicating such intention. No person who upon such inquiry fails to indicate intention to work for the Commonwealth may thereafter claim the right to employment by the Commonwealth provided in § 56-512.

1952, c. 696.

§ 56-514. Status as employee of utility unaffected by acceptance or refusal of employment by Commonwealth.

The status of no person as an employee of the utility shall be affected by either his acceptance of employment by the Commonwealth or by his refusal of such employment.

1952, c. 696.

§ 56-515. Entry upon property of utility after proclamation of intention to take possession.

After any proclamation of intention to take possession, the Governor may, by and through agents designated by him, enter upon the property of the utility with prospective employees and familiarize them with the nature of the work incident to the positions in which it is contemplated they will be employed and train them to discharge the duties thereof. The management of the utility and all state departments, institutions and agencies shall cooperate with the Governor in the operation of the utility and in the securing and training of persons for employment in such operation.

1952, c. 696.

§ 56-516. When possession of utility to be delivered; procedure upon refusal of possession.

Unless the management of the utility believes that the Governor is mistaken in his conclusion as to the curtailment, interruption or suspension of operation, actual possession of the utility, its properties and facilities, shall be delivered at the time stated in the executive proclamation. In the event of refusal of possession, upon application of the Governor any court of record of any county or city in which the utility's main executive offices in this Commonwealth are located, or the judge thereof in vacation, shall issue a rule requiring the authorized representatives of such utility to show cause why possession should not be delivered at the time stated in the executive proclamation. The rule shall be given preference over all other matters pending before such court. After reasonable notice, the court or judge shall hear the parties and determine as promptly as possible the question of fact relating to the curtailment, interruption or suspension of the operation of the utility and whether the facts require the delivery of possession and render judgment requiring or denying delivery of possession as the case may be.

1952, c. 696.

§ 56-517. Interference with or obstruction of Governor, state representative or agent.

No person, organization or association or any bargaining representative of the employees or any representative or agent of the management of the utility shall interfere with or obstruct the Governor, or any state representative or agent designated by him, in his efforts to secure or contract for the services of the officers and employees of the utility or of any person to engage in or continue the operation of the utility, or shall encourage or solicit any such persons not to render such services or shall interfere in or obstruct the training of prospective employees in the operation of the utility by the Governor or by the designated state representatives. Upon seizure of any utility as provided herein the establishment or conduct of a picket line near or adjacent to any work engaged in or proposed to be engaged in by any such persons employed or sought to be employed by the Commonwealth in its operation of such utility shall be deemed an unlawful obstruction of the exercise of an essential function of the state government and a violation of this section; and all persons ordering, directing, encouraging or participating in any such picketing shall be guilty of violating this section.

1952, c. 696.

§ 56-518. Expense of operation, etc.; payment of revenues, etc., into state treasury.

The expense of operating any utility pursuant to the provisions of this chapter, and of training prospective employees or otherwise preparing to operate the same shall be paid out of the appropriation for criminal charges upon such authorizations as the Governor may prescribe, and all funds, revenues or reimbursements derived from or received as a result of such operations shall be paid into the state treasury and credited to such appropriation, or, after full reimbursement of such appropriation for expenditures therefrom, additional funds may be credited to such other appropriations as the Governor may direct, and subsequent disbursements in carrying out the purposes of this chapter may be made therefrom.

1952, c. 696.

§ 56-519. Previously established salaries, wages, conditions of employment, etc., to be observed; collective bargaining.

During the period of the Commonwealth's operation of any utility, pursuant to the provisions of this chapter, the Governor shall observe the utility's previously established salaries, wages, conditions of employment, practices as to merit or length of service increases and as to promotions; it being the intent of this chapter that any disputes as to such matters shall be settled by collective bargaining between the parties to such disputes.

1952, c. 696.

§ 56-520. Collection and disposition of revenues accruing from utility.

The Governor may provide in such manner as he deems appropriate for the collection of the gross revenues accruing from the utility during the time of its operation by the Commonwealth. After payment of proper operating expenses and reimbursement of the Commonwealth for all expenses incurred in preparing to operate same and making allowances of the additional items as provided in § 56-523 in defining net income, eighty-five per centum of the net income shall be paid to the utility as compensation for the temporary use of its business, facilities and properties. The amount of money so paid shall in nowise control the amount of just compensation to be allowed the utility. In the event of disagreement as to the amount of payments under this section, either party may, by appropriate petition, submit the matter to the State Corporation Commission with the right of appeal from its decision to the Supreme Court.

1952, c. 696.

§ 56-521. Restoring possession to utility.

Whenever the authorized representatives of any such utility shall notify the Governor, in writing, stating that the utility is in position to and can and will resume operations and render normal public service, and shall satisfy the Governor, or his designated agent of the correctness of such statement, the Governor, or such agent, upon the request of the utility management, shall restore to the possession of the utility its properties and facilities. In the event that the Governor or such agent for any reason refuses such restoration of possession, the utility shall have the right to have a rule issued by the circuit court in the City of Richmond, or the judge thereof in vacation, to show cause why such possession should not be restored. The rule shall provide for 10 days' notice to the Governor or such agent before cause is required to be shown. The decision of such court, or the judge thereof in vacation, on such question shall be final as to conditions then existing, but shall not be a bar to subsequent requests by the utility for restoration of possession. Nothing in this section shall be construed as denying to the Governor the right to restore possession at any time when, in his judgment, the public interest so requires.

1952, c. 696; 2005, c. 681.

§ 56-522. Compensation to utility.

The utility shall be entitled to receive reasonable, proper and lawful compensation for the use of its business, facilities and properties by the Commonwealth. In the event the parties in interest are unable to agree upon the amount of such compensation either party may file a petition in the court rendering judgment requiring delivery of possession of the utility, or in the event no such judgment was rendered, in any court mentioned in § 56-516, for the purpose of having the same judicially determined. The court shall, without a jury, hear such evidence and argument of counsel as may be deemed appropriate and render judgment thereon or may, subject to the provisions of § 8.01-607, refer to a commissioner such questions as are considered proper and act upon the commissioner's report as permitted in the statutes and rules governing commissioners' proceedings. An appeal shall be to the Supreme Court from any final judgment of the court rendered under this section. If the amount of compensation so determined shall be less than the sum paid to the utility under the provisions of § 56-520 the utility shall return the excess by paying the same to the State Treasurer to be credited as the Governor may direct in accordance with the provisions of § 56-518.

1952, c. 696; 2005, cc. 681, 885.

§ 56-523. Definitions.

The words "utilities" or "public utilities" when used in this chapter shall be construed to mean any person, partnership, association or corporation, engaged in the business of furnishing electric power, water, light, heat, gas, transportation or communication, or any one or more of them, to the people of Virginia.

"Net income" with respect to operation of a utility by the Commonwealth shall be construed to mean the gross revenues derived from such operation after deducting therefrom:

(1) The costs of operation and maintenance of the utility,

(2) The amount of depreciation during the time of such operation based on the amount allowed in the utility's federal income tax return,

(3) Federal, state, and local taxes which would be payable by the utility, if the properties were operated by it,

(4) Interest on the indebtedness of the utility, and

(5) Payments for the cost of insurance.

All of such items shall be prorated on an annual basis in proportion to the time the plant is operated by the Commonwealth.

1952, c. 696.

§ 56-524. Penalties.

Any person violating any of the provisions of §§ 56-512, 56-515 or § 56-517 shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction of same shall be fined not less than $10 nor more than $1,000, and may be imprisoned in jail for not more than 12 months.

1952, c. 696.

§ 56-525. Injunction against violation of chapter.

In addition to the remedies herein provided, the Governor is hereby authorized to apply to the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond or to any court mentioned in § 56-516 for, and such court shall have jurisdiction upon hearing and for cause shown to grant, a temporary or permanent injunction restraining any person, organization, association or corporation from violating any provision of this chapter irrespective of whether or not there exists an adequate remedy at law.

1952, c. 696.

§ 56-526. Duty of Commonwealth's attorneys and Attorney General; employment of special counsel.

It shall be the duty of every attorney for the Commonwealth to whom the Governor shall report any violation of §§ 56-512, 56-515 or § 56-517 to cause proceedings to be prosecuted without delay for the fines and penalties in such cases. The Attorney General shall be charged with the duty of enforcing all other provisions of this chapter and shall represent the Governor in all matters arising thereunder. Whenever he shall deem it in the best interest of the Commonwealth the Attorney General may employ special counsel to assist him in carrying out the duties imposed by this section and the expenses so incurred shall be considered as an expense of operation of the utility and paid in accordance with the provisions of § 56-518.

1952, c. 696.

§ 56-527. Chapter not applicable to certain carriers.

With the exception of ferries nothing in this chapter shall apply to any express company, sleeping car company, common carrier engaged in interstate commerce by railroad or by air or to any company which is directly or indirectly owned or controlled by any carrier by railroad.

1952, c. 696; 1954, c. 108.

§ 56-528. Governor's powers as commander in chief not impaired.

Nothing in this chapter shall be considered or construed as in any way questioning or impairing the constitutional or statutory powers of the Governor as commander in chief of the land and naval forces of the Commonwealth.

1952, c. 696.