This is one of a series of posts on particular water-related bills in the 2018 Virginia General Assembly. For an inventory of about water-related bills in the 2018 General Assembly, please visit the Virginia Water Resources Research Center’s “Virginia Water Legislation” page, online at http://www.vwrrc.vt.edu/virginia-water-legislation/. Each post includes a summary of the bill(s), their legislative status (in committee, passed, failed, etc.), and a list of hyperlinked headlines for news media items on the bill(s). Information on the bills’ provisions and status is taken from the Virginia Legislative Information System (LIS), online at http://leg1.state.va.us/lis.htm (LIS description of provisions edited in some cases for space or clarity). Each bill number is hyperlinked to the LIS entry for that bill.
Several bills introduced into the 2018 Virginia General Assembly dealt with water-related impacts or landowner rights related to natural gas pipelines. (For much more detail on natural gas issues in Virginia, please see this News Grouper post.)
The following two bills were still alive as of the morning of February 23, 2018.
SB 698 and SB 699 – Natural gas pipelines: inspections of land-disturbing activities and stop work instructions. Both bills passed the Senate (33-7 on 2/6/18) and were reported from the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources (22-0 on 2/21/18). The bills, sponsored by Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-25th), would authorize the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to conduct inspections of land-disturbing activities related to construction of any natural gas transmission pipeline greater than 36 inches in diameter to determine (i) compliance with annual standards and specifications, (ii) compliance with any site-specific plans, and (iii) if there have been or are likely to be adverse impacts to water quality as a result of such land-disturbing activities; and would authorize the DEQ to issue a stop-work instruction on the relevant part of the site when the department that there has been a substantial adverse impact to water quality or that a substantial and imminent adverse impact to water quality is likely to occur as a result of such land-disturbing activities.
The following five bills failed (bills below are listed in order by bill number, with House bills listed before Senate bills).
HB 1141 – Interstate natural gas pipeline; Virginia Water Protection Permit; regulations. This bill failed in the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources. The bill, sponsored by Del. Sam Rasoul (D-11th), would have directed the State Water Control Board (SWCB), to do the following in the case of interstate natural gas pipeline projects: require both a Virginia Water Protection Permit and an Individual Water Quality Certification under Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act; review water body crossings, construction through karst terrain, and plans for control of erosion, sediment, and stormwater; prohibit any land-disturbing activity, including tree felling, prior to the issuance of a Water Quality Certification; and require horizontal directional drilling for certain crossings of large water bodies.
HB 1187 – Natural gas companies; right of entry upon property. This bill failed in the House Committee on Commerce and Labor. The bill, sponsored by Del. Chris Hurst (D-12th), would have put additional conditions on the permission for natural gas companies to enter upon real property for the purpose of conducting surveys and other tests for its proposed line or the location of facilities. The companion bill in the Senate was SB 324, sponsored by Sen. John Edwards (D-21st); that bill failed in the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor.
HB 1188 – Natural gas pipelines; contingency plan; operation; discharge; penalty. This bill failed in the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources. The bill, sponsored by Del. Chris Hurst (D-12th), would have required the operator of any natural gas pipeline of a certain size, prior to operation, to commission an independent test of the quality of groundwater for each property in the right-of-way and to file a gas discharge contingency plan that is approved by the State Water Control Board; authorizes the Board to adopt regulations requiring testing and inspection of the pipeline and annual retesting of ground water at properties in the right-of-way and a demonstration of financial responsibility by the operator; prohibited the discharge of gas, establishing penalties for those discharging or causing or permitting a discharge or a substantial threat of such discharge, establishing legal liability and defenses, and requiring any person discharging gas immediately to report it to the Board and to local authorities.
HB 1294 – Interstate natural gas pipeline construction; water quality impact bond; statewide halt. This bill failed in the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources. The bill, sponsored by Del. Sam Rasoul (D-11th), would have required any company that plans to construct an interstate natural gas pipeline in Virginia to post a performance bond with the State Water Control Board (SWCB) in an amount sufficient to ensure that the Board could address and remediate any adverse water quality impact that arises out of the construction; and provided that, if the SWCB determines that construction activity has caused or threatens to cause an adverse water quality impact, the SWCB shall undertake conservation action to address and remediate the identified water quality impact and issue an order to halt any construction on each interstate natural gas pipeline under construction in Virginia.
News Media Items Related to This Legislation
Pipeline bills pass Senate, Bath Recorder, 2/7/18.
General Assembly panel kills pipeline bills by Dels. Chris Hurst and Sam Rasoul, Roanoke Times, 2/6/18.
‘Democratic Caucus of SWVA’ introduce bills to support landowners during pipeline disputes, WDBJ TV-Roanoke, 1/11/18.
Southwest Va. lawmakers push legislative package aimed at reforming pipeline regulation, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/11/18.