“Oil-spill fine, if any, to be negotiated between Virginia and Dominion Power.”...

“Oil-spill fine, if any, to be negotiated between Virginia and Dominion Power.” SERIOUSLY???

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Unless I’m reading the following (see below) wrong, the Code of Virginia (Article 11: Discharge of Oil Into Waters)  calls for potentially harsh civil – and even criminal – penalties for those who “knowingly and willfully” or “negligently discharges or negligently causes or permits such discharge” oil into Virginia waters. Same thing for anyone who “who knowingly or willfully makes any false statement, representation or certification in any application, record, report, plan or other document filed or required to be maintained by this article or by administrative or judicial order issued under this article.”

Note that in a February 4 Washington Post story on Dominion Power’s January 24 spill of 13,000 gallons of oil from its Crystal City substation into the Potomac River, a spokesperson for Dominion “said there is no evidence that the oil in the river involved the utility.” {LIE?) Also note that in this February 12 Washington Post story, “Dominion [still] insisted that it had cleaned up 95 percent of the January spill, and the rest was believed to be contained within machinery at the site.” (BALD-FACED LIE?) Given all that, why is it that today’s Washington Post headline informs us that “Oil-spill fine, if any, to be negotiated between Virginia and Dominion Power.” I mean, seriously? The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is actually saying, “It’s a civil penalty, and under state law, it has to be negotiated. . . . The maximum fine is $100 per gallon?” Is Virginia really as pathetic and weak as that when it comes to punishing environmental destruction by powerful companies like Dominion? Hmmmm.

P.S. Check out this bill by Del. Alfonso Lopez, defeated by Republicans in the House of Delegates, which would have required the following seeming no-brainers: “any person who unlawfully discharges any deleterious substance into state waters to notify the State Water Control Board (the Board), the Department of Environmental Quality (the Department), or the coordinator of emergency services of the affected locality within 12 hours. Current law allows such a person 24 hours to give notice. The bill also requires that written notice follow to the Board, in addition to the Department, and specifies that the required report of potentially detrimental discharges by the Board or the Department to local newspapers, television stations, and radio stations be provided to such media outlets as soon as practicable after receiving it.” Why wasn’t this done by Dominion? Also, why has there still been no word from officials of Arlington County, where the spill originated, nearly four weeks later?!?

§ 62.1-44.34:20. Enforcement and penalties.

A. Upon a finding of a violation of this article or a regulation or term or condition of approval issued pursuant to this article, the Board is authorized to issue a special order requiring any person to cease and desist from causing or permitting such violation or requiring any person to comply with any such provision, regulation or term or condition of approval. Such special orders shall be issued only after notice and an opportunity for hearing except that, if the Board finds that any discharge in violation of this article poses a serious threat to (i) the public health, safety or welfare or the health of animals, fish, botanic or aquatic life; (ii) a public water supply; or (iii) recreational, commercial, industrial, agricultural or other reasonable uses, the Board may issue, without advance notice or hearing, an emergency special order requiring the operator of any facility, vehicle or vessel to cease such discharge immediately, to implement any applicable contingency plan and to effect containment and cleanup. Such emergency special order may also require the operator of a facility to modify or cease regular operation of the facility, or any portion thereof, until the Board determines that continuing regular operation of the facility, or such portion thereof, will not pose a substantial threat of additional or continued discharges. The Board shall affirm, modify, amend or cancel any such emergency order after providing notice and opportunity for hearing to the operator charged with the violation. The notice of the hearing and the emergency order shall be issued at the same time. If an operator who has been issued such a special order or an emergency special order is not complying with the terms thereof, the Board may proceed in accordance with subsection B of this section, and where the order is based on a finding of an imminent and substantial danger, the court shall issue an injunction compelling compliance with the emergency special order pending a hearing by the Board. If an emergency special order requires modification or cessation of operations, the Board shall provide an opportunity for a hearing within 48 hours of the issuance of the injunction.

B. In the event of a violation of this article or a regulation, administrative or judicial order, or term or condition of approval issued under this article, or in the event of failure to comply with a special order issued by the Board pursuant to this section, the Board is authorized to proceed by civil action to obtain an injunction of such violation, to obtain such affirmative equitable relief as is appropriate and to recover all costs, damages and civil penalties resulting from such violation or failure to comply. The Board shall be entitled to an award of reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs in any action in which it is a prevailing party.

C. Any person who violates or causes or permits to be violated a provision of this article, or a regulation, administrative or judicial order, or term or condition of approval issued under this article, shall be subject to a civil penalty for each such violation as follows:

1. For failing to obtain approval of an oil discharge contingency plan as required by § 62.1-44.34:15, not less than $1,000 nor more than $50,000 for the initial violation, and $5,000 per day for each day of violation thereafter;

2. For failing to maintain evidence of financial responsibility as required by § 62.1-44.34:16, not less than $1,000 nor more than $100,000 for the initial violation, and $5,000 per day for each day of violation thereafter;

3. For discharging or causing or permitting a discharge of oil into or upon state waters, or owning or operating any facility, vessel or vehicle from which such discharge originates in violation of § 62.1-44.34:18, up to $100 per gallon of oil discharged;

4. For failing to cooperate in containment and cleanup of a discharge as required by § 62.1-44.34:18 or for failing to report a discharge as required by § 62.1-44.34:19, not less than $1,000 nor more than $50,000 for the initial violation, and $10,000 for each day of violation thereafter; and

5. For violating or causing or permitting to be violated any other provision of this article, or a regulation, administrative or judicial order, or term or condition of approval issued under this article, up to $32,500 for each violation. Each day of violation of each requirement shall constitute a separate offense.

D. Civil penalties may be assessed under this article either by a court in an action brought by the Board pursuant to this section, as specified in § 62.1-44.15, or with the consent of the person charged, in a special order issued by the Board. All penalties shall be paid into the state treasury and deposited by the State Treasurer into the Virginia Underground Petroleum Storage Tank Fund as established in § 62.1-44.34:11. In determining the amount of any penalty, consideration shall be given to the willfulness of the violation, any history of noncompliance, the actions of the person in reporting, containing and cleaning up any discharge or threat of discharge, the damage or injury to state waters or the impairment of their beneficial use, the cost of containment and cleanup, the nature and degree of injury to or interference with general health, welfare and property, and the available technology for preventing, containing, reducing or eliminating the discharge.

E. Any person who knowingly violates, or causes or permits to be violated, a provision of this article, or a regulation, administrative or judicial order, or term or condition of approval issued under this article shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by confinement in jail for not more than 12 months and a fine of not more than $100,000, either or both. Any person who knowingly or willfully makes any false statement, representation or certification in any application, record, report, plan or other document filed or required to be maintained by this article or by administrative or judicial order issued under this article shall be guilty of a felony punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than one nor more than three years and a fine of not more than $100,000, either or both. In the case of a discharge of oil into or upon state waters:

1. Any person who negligently discharges or negligently causes or permits such discharge shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by confinement in jail for not more than 12 months and a fine of not more than $50,000, either or both.

2. Any person who knowingly and willfully discharges or knowingly and willfully causes or permits such discharge shall be guilty of a felony punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than one year nor more than 10 years and a fine of not more than $100,000, either or both.

F. Each day of violation of each requirement shall constitute a separate offense. In the event the violation of this article follows a prior felony conviction under subdivision E 2 of this section, such violation shall constitute a felony and shall be punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than two years nor more than 10 years and a fine of not more than $200,000, either or both.

G. Upon conviction for a violation of any provision of this article, or a regulation, administrative or judicial order, or term or condition of approval issued under this article, a defendant who is not an individual shall be sentenced to pay a fine not exceeding the greater of:

1. $1 million; or

2. An amount that is three times the economic benefit, if any, realized by the defendant as a result of the offense.

  • Dianna Richardson

    Why do we negotiate with Dominion? Why don’t we follow the law? It’s so frustrating to (seemingly) not have any officials or agencies on the side of the citizens of Virginia.

    • http://www.bluevirginia.us/ lowkell

      Because they have spent millions of $$$ buying up Virginia’s political system, regulatory agencies, etc. And it worked like a chamr. Lovely, eh?

  • http://www.bluevirginia.us/ lowkell

    Video: Dump Dominion March For Our Rivers

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYjUQqdq-ho

  • http://www.bluevirginia.us/ lowkell

    Video: Environmental Activists Arrested on the Steps of the VA Capitol

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkHpVwUA8OI