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General Assembly Notebook: Bill to allow state inspections of interstate gas pipelines moves forward

General Assembly Notebook: Bill to allow state inspections of interstate gas pipelines moves forward


RICHMOND — A bill that could lead to a state inspection program for interstate natural gas pipelines is moving through the House of Delegates with no opposition.

HB 1261, sponsored by Del. Greg Habeeb, R-Salem, authorizes state regulators to seek federal permission to conduct their own pipeline inspections.

The State Corporation Commission already inspects all intrastate pipelines as well as interstate oil lines.

But it’s not yet empowered to evaluate interstate natural gas lines. Virginia is currently crisscrossed by more than 2,500 miles of interstate natural gas pipelines, and proposals like the Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline could usher in more.

If the state seeks and receives federal authorization, it would be able to inspect pipelines both during and after construction.

The authority would be limited to inspections. Under federal rules, violations found by state inspectors must be referred to federal regulators for follow-up and enforcement action.

Currently, about nine states are authorized to undertake their own inspections of interstate natural gas pipelines.

HB 1261 was unanimously approved in committee on Thursday. No parties spoke against it. The bill is now set to advance to the full House for a vote next week.

Senate advances bill to raise reckless driving threshold

The Senate backed a bill this week to raise the trigger for reckless driving by speeding.

SB 768, sponsored by Sen. David Suetterlein, would raise the threshold to over 85 mph — up from the current standard of over 80 mph.

Some Virginia interstates allow speeds of 70 mph, meaning under current law a driver could be charged with reckless driving for going 11 miles over the limit, said Suetterlein, R-Roanoke County.

His bill does not change a second part of the law that makes driving 20 miles or more over the speed limit a reckless driving offense. Reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

SB 768 was passed on a 26-14 vote Wednesday after an extended debate about whether driving 85 mph is safe.

The bill now advances to the House of Delegates, which already killed two identical House bills — including one patroned by Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke — last month.

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