Cathy Dyson writes about King George County.
More speak out about fracking in K.G.
State officials spoke Tuesday night about regulations regarding hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and that they’re stricter in the Tidewater area—which includes the Taylorsville basin—than elsewhere in Virginia.
They also pointed out that “the heart of gas and water regulations is protection of the water” and that more than 10,000 oil and gas wells have been drilled in Virginia, with “no record of any permanent water loss,” said Rick Cooper, a director with the Virginia Department of Mines, Mineral and Energy.
Still, it was obvious that most people in the packed King George Citizens Center don’t want the controversial practice in their county.
Almost 200 people attended the meeting, and 19 people spoke during the public-comment period, held before the Board of Supervisors heard presentations from DMME officials.
Residents brought up concerns previously raised: fear of water contamination or chemical spills, noise from drilling and impact from heavy truck traffic.
No one offered more thoughtful remarks than Emily Martin, a King George High School student who attends the Chesapeake Bay Governor’s School. Between heavy sighs, she wondered what impact the drilling might have, in the present and future. She asked how much water would be used during fracking, about how chemicals are processed after the drilling and if wells would be allowed near facilities like schools and possibly cause disruptions.
“What positive benefits will be brought along to our county?” she asked. “Will the rewards outweigh the risks or will it be vice versa?”
The public comments took almost 90 minutes, more than twice as long as presentations from Cooper and David Spears, the state geologist with the DMME.
Supervisor Chairman Joe Grzeika told the audience there’s nothing pending, and that no one is “breathing down our neck” to get permission to drill for natural gas or oil.
“We’re trying to get ahead of the curve,” Grzeika said.
The board has held several sessions to gather information about fracking because a Texas-based company, Shore Exploration Inc., has leased more than 84,000 acres in five counties south of Fredericksburg. The area is known as the Taylorsville basin, and Shore officials have said they would like to start drilling within a year to 18 months.
No permits have been submitted for any work in the region, DMME officials said Tuesday night.
Spears, the geologist, gave a historical look at drilling and noted that 12 exploratory wells were drilled more than 30 years ago in the region. He went even farther back, to 1968, when the process of hydraulic fracturing was used to drill a well in King George County.
He called the Taylorsville basin an important potential energy source in the state. A recent U.S. Geological Survey estimated there’s 1.06 trillion cubic feet of gas in the basin. That’s about 2.5 times Virginia’s annual consumption of natural gas, according to the DMME.
In addition to the normal permits required by DMME, anyone who wants to drill in the Tidewater area, which includes this region, will have to apply for a special permit that’s also submitted to the Department of Environmental Quality.
Applications must be done for each well and include an environmental impact assessment with details about location, drill plans and an analysis of water, up to one mile away, Cooper said. He estimated it would take agencies up to six months to review the applications.
He also showed slides describing well casings, how far they must be from the surface of water and the heavy-duty cementing done to keep them in place.
“This is not your general hardware type of cement,” he said, adding that his agency also inspects operators around the clock to make sure they follow the rules.
Cooper also said wells in Virginia are being fractured with nitrogen, which uses less water and is more environmentally friendly than hydraulic fracturing.
Their comments were a stark contrast to those from residents. With tears in her eyes, Cindy Ondrej said she had grown up in King George and had strong ties here—but would move away if fracking were allowed.
Only two speakers supported the practice: Kenneth Snow, who works for Shore, and Bob Fogg, a Louisa County resident who owns land in King George which he has leased to the company.
Both asked the supervisors to consider all sides.
“I want you to study the facts of this issue and study it hard,” Fogg said. “I’d like for you to know the real truth, not just the one side you’ve been hearing so far.”