(1) As used in this section, the term:
(a) “Division” means the Division of Administrative Hearings.
(b) “High-priority subsurface installation” means an underground gas transmission or gas distribution pipeline, an underground pipeline used to transport gasoline, jet fuel, or any other refined petroleum product or hazardous or highly volatile liquid, such as anhydrous ammonia or carbon dioxide, if the pipeline is deemed to be critical by the operator of the pipeline and is identified as a high-priority subsurface installation to an excavator who has provided a notice of intent to excavate pursuant to s. 556.105(1) , or would have been identified as a high-priority subsurface installation except for the excavator's failure to give proper notice of intent to excavate.
(c) “Incident” means an event that involves damage to a high-priority subsurface installation that has been identified as such by the operator according to the notification procedures set forth in subsection (2) and that:
1. Results in death or serious bodily injury requiring inpatient hospitalization.
2. Results in property damage, including service-restoration costs, in an amount in excess of $50,000 or interruption of service to 2,500 or more customers.
(2) When an excavator proposes to excavate or demolish within 15 feet of the horizontal route of an underground facility that has been identified as a high-priority subsurface installation by the operator of the facility, the operator shall, in addition to identifying the horizontal route of its facility as set forth in s. 556.105(5)(a) and (b) , and within the time period set forth in s. 556.105(9)(a) for a positive response, notify the excavator that the facility is a high-priority subsurface installation. If the member operator provides such timely notice of the existence of a high-priority subsurface installation, an excavator shall notify the operator of the planned excavation start date and time before beginning excavation. If the member operator does not provide timely notice, the excavator may proceed, after waiting the prescribed time period set forth in s. 556.105(9)(a) , to excavate without notifying the member operator of the excavation start date and time. The exemptions stated in s. 556.108 apply to the notification requirements in this subsection.
(3)(a) An alleged commission of an infraction listed in s. 556.107(1) which results in an incident must be reported to the system by a member operator or an excavator within 24 hours after learning of the alleged occurrence of an incident.
(b) Upon receipt of an allegation that an incident has occurred, the system shall transmit an incident report to the division and contract with the division so that the division may conduct a hearing to determine whether an incident has occurred, and, if so, whether a violation of s. 556.107(1)(a) was a proximate cause of the incident. The contract for services to be performed by the division must include provisions for the system to reimburse the division for any costs incurred by the division for court reporters, transcript preparation, travel, facility rental, and other customary hearing costs, in the manner set forth in s. 120.65(9) .
(c) The division has jurisdiction in a proceeding under this section to determine the facts and law concerning an alleged incident. The division may impose a fine against a violator in an amount not to exceed $50,000 if the person violated a provision of s. 556.107(1)(a) and that violation was a proximate cause of the incident. However, if a state agency or political subdivision caused the incident, the state agency or political subdivision may not be fined in an amount in excess of $10,000.
(d) A fine imposed by the division is in addition to any amount payable as a result of a citation relating to the incident under s. 556.107(1)(a) .
(e) A fine against an excavator or a member operator imposed under this subsection shall be paid to the system, which shall use the collected fines to satisfy the costs incurred by the system for any proceedings under this section. To the extent there are any funds remaining, the system may use the funds exclusively for damage-prevention education.
(f) This section does not change the basis for civil liability. The findings and results of a hearing under this section may not be used as evidence of liability in any civil action.
(4)(a) The division shall issue and serve on all original parties an initial order that assigns the case to a specific administrative law judge and requests information regarding scheduling the final hearing within 5 business days after the division receives a petition or request for hearing. The original parties in the proceeding include all excavators and member operators identified by the system as being involved in the alleged incident. The final hearing must be conducted within 60 days after the date the petition or the request for a hearing is filed with the division.
(b) Unless the parties otherwise agree, venue for the hearing shall be in the county in which the underground facility is located.
(c) An intervenor in the proceeding must file a petition to intervene no later than 15 days before the final hearing. A person who has a substantial interest in the proceeding may intervene.
(5) The following procedures apply:
(a) Motions shall be limited to the following:
1. A motion in opposition to the petition.
2. A motion requesting discovery beyond the informal exchange of documents and witness lists described in paragraph (c). Upon a showing of necessity, additional discovery may be permitted in the discretion of the administrative law judge, but only if the discovery can be completed no later than 5 days before the final hearing.
3. A motion for continuance of the final hearing date.
(b) All parties shall attend a prehearing conference for the purpose of identifying the legal and factual issues to be considered at the final hearing, the names and addresses of witnesses who may be called to testify at the final hearing, documentary evidence that will be offered at the final hearing, the range of penalties that may be imposed, and any other matter that would expedite resolution of the proceeding. The prehearing conference may be held by telephone conference call.
(c) Not later than 5 days before the final hearing, the parties shall furnish to each other copies of documentary evidence and lists of witnesses who may testify at the final hearing.
(d) All parties shall have an opportunity to respond, to present evidence and argument on all issues involved, to conduct cross-examination and submit rebuttal evidence, and to be represented by counsel or other qualified representative.
(e) The record shall consist only of:
1. All notices, pleadings, motions, and intermediate rulings.
2. Evidence received during the final hearing.
3. A statement of matters officially recognized.
4. Proffers of proof and objections and rulings thereon.
5. Matters placed on the record after an ex parte communication.
6. The written final order of the administrative law judge presiding at the final hearing.
7. The official transcript of the final hearing.
(f) The division shall accurately and completely preserve all testimony in the proceeding and, upon request by any party, shall make a full or partial transcript available at no more than actual cost.
(g) The administrative law judge shall issue a final order within 30 days after the final hearing or the filing of the transcript thereof, whichever is later. The final order of the administrative law judge must include:
1. Findings of fact based exclusively on the evidence of record and matters officially recognized.
2. Conclusions of law. In determining whether a party has committed an infraction of s. 556.107(1)(a) , and whether the infraction was a proximate cause of an incident, the commission of an infraction must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence.
3. Imposition of a fine, if applicable.
4. Any other information required by law or rule to be contained in a final order.
The final order of the administrative law judge constitutes final agency action subject to judicial review pursuant to s. 120.68 .
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