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July 2011

Virginians Don’t Want Fracking in the Forest

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Bay Daily readers know well that horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is controversial. Fracking is a process used to drill and extract natural gas from deep underground Marcellus shale formations, a type of rock that underlies some parts of the country, including portions of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

It involves drilling a mile or more into the earth, then drilling horizontally into the shale, pumping a mix of sand, water, and chemicals under high pressure to crack the rock and force natural gas trapped there to the surface. 

Areas around the country where fracking has been extensively done report a host of unsettling problems and concerns -- contamination of drinking water wells, pollution of surface waters, mishandling of drilling wastewater, runoff pollution, air pollution, forest fragmentation, unsustainable truck traffic, and the industrialization of once quiet, rural areas.

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We’re Still Opposed to Offshore Drilling

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I guess the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) will have to agree to disagree on this one.

Virginia’s two U.S. senators, Mark Warner and Jim Webb, introduced legislation in Congress this week that seeks to speed up the sale of gas and oil leases off the coast of Virginia, remap the offshore exploration area, and provide Virginia with half of any proceeds from resulting leases.

The bill has the support Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, former Governors Tim Kaine and George Allen (both of whom are running for Webb’s soon-to-be open Senate seat), and the oil and natural gas industry. Proponents see offshore oil and natural gas, to the extent there is any, as a potential way to make Virginia a player in the energy supply game, help reduce the country’s reliance on foreign petroleum, reduce gasoline prices at home, and provide Virginia with new revenue for transportation, conservation, and other needed projects.

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Aren’t You Sick of Dirty Beaches?

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At the start of the July 4th holiday weekend, many folks in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are rightly looking forward to getting out on the Bay or its hundreds of rivers, streams, and creeks and having some fun.

Swimming, fishing, boating, and other water activities are not only what make the Chesapeake Bay one of the nation’s favorite places to live or visit, but they also contribute mightily to the region’s economy, generating billions of dollars in tourism, tax revenue, and jobs. The Bay is truly the region’s economic engine, and clean water is the fuel for that engine.

But, of course, clean water in the Bay region has become a big problem. As the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Bay states have reported for years, great swaths of the Chesapeake and its rivers are polluted, appearing with increasing frequency on official “dirty water lists” and violating federal or state water quality standards for “fishability” and “swimmability.”

A timely -- and given the holiday weekend, unfortunate -- case in point: The Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) this week published its annual report on the number of beach closures due to dirty water. Nationally, the numbers increased a significant 29 percent in 2010 from the year before, and in Virginia and Maryland, the numbers were up as well.

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