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Caution on Fracking in Virginia

Drillingrigtall.jpgHydraulic fracturing –- typically called fracking -– to mine for natural gas remains controversial across the country and in the Chesapeake Bay region.

Fracking involves drilling a mile or more into the earth, then drilling horizontally into 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 done extensively 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.

As a result, the U.S. EPA, states, and localities around the nation are taking a harder look at fracking and how better to ensure that local interests and the environment are protected as mining companies seek to exploit this new and potentially large sources of natural gas.

In Virginia, a portion of the George Washington National Forest sits atop a shale formation that GWNF.USFS potentially could contain pockets of natural gas reachable by fracking. The U.S. Forest Service, which manages the forest, is currently considering whether to allow fracking within the forest, a request of gas companies and not a few politicians. To date, the Forest Service has prohibited the practice, although traditional vertical gas drilling has been permitted.

Last week, the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper, historically an advocate of so-called “all the above” energy production, including oil, coal, and gas drilling, weighed in on the forest fracking issue. In an editorial titled “The Forest Primeval,” the paper urged the Forest Service to err on the side of caution and continue its fracking prohibition.

The George Washington National Forest “is a treasure that merits close guarding,” the paper opined. “In this particular case, the conservative approach calls for putting conservation first — and placing the burden of proof on those who would do otherwise.”

I couldn’t agree more. What do you think?

Chuck Epes

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

(Photos: Tom Pelton/CBF; National Forest Service)


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I also agree with you, Mary Ann.

If people want to turn their own private land into an industrial site, maybe that's their business (assuming they don't pollute the water or the air for the rest of us...or cause earthquakes or traffic jams, etc etc.)

But private industry should not be exploiting public greenspace for private gain.

All the people own the George Washington National Forest, but not all the people will benefit by having it ripped up and drilled.

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