The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Local group raises ‘fracking’ concerns
With thousands of acres east of Fredericksburg under lease for oil and gas exploration, what’s the prospect for the use of controversial “fracking” technology and the possible impact on Northern Neck groundwater?
The Rappahannock Group Sierra Club will explore those topics tonight at Fredericksburg United Methodist Church. The session, headed by Geoff Urda, a research intern for the Virginia Sierra Club, begins at 7 p.m.
Since 2010, Texas-based Shore Exploration and Production Corp. has been purchasing leases on up to 100,000 acres in Caroline, Essex, King George, King and Queen and King William counties. It has a field office in Bowling Green.
The company wants to drill in the Taylorsville Basin, a geologic formation running from Hanover County to Maryland. Shore Exploration and its partners drilled exploratory wells in the 1980s in Westmoreland, Caroline, King George and Essex, finding some natural gas and oil. But low oil prices and other factors ended the venture.
According to industry officials, the company is still in the land-lease phase in its current effort. A company representative could not be reached Wednesday for comment.
Rick Cooper, principal executive to the staff of the Virginia Gas and Oil Board, said the company has no permits pending with the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy.
“I’ve had zero contact with them,” he said. However, he has talked with parties interested in the leasing activities, though his office has nothing to do with that.
Cooper said all producing gas wells now operating in the state are in seven counties in Southwest Virginia.
The majority of those wells employ fracturing technology, he said, though wells there have lower pressures and volumes than those in some other states.
The Taylorsville Basin, where Shore Exploration wants to drill, Cooper said, has shale formations that potentially contain natural gas.
Much of the attention about fracking is centered on the Marcellus shale formation that runs along the spine of the Appalachians, into Pennsylvania.
Companies using the technologies there contend the process is safe, creating jobs and revenue for localities. But there’s a growing chorus of concern from some residents and environmentalists about well-water contamination and other pollution.
Urda, a graduate student in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Master of Urban Planning program, says the potential for water contamination is a concern. He has been following the issue for the Virginia Sierra Club.
“I think that anyone who depends on groundwater” in the Northern Neck needs to know about the process.
“I grew up in southern New York state; hydraulic fracturing and shale gas drilling has been a [hot-button] issue there for five years,” he said, and led to his doing research here.
Abundant and low-priced natural gas has been a go-to source of energy for electric utilities. Dominion Virginia Power, for example, is building a natural gas-fired plant in Warren County; others are on the drawing board.
Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency is conducting a national study on potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing. It expects to release a draft report late next year.
Read more on gas oil leases in The Free Lance–Star archives: fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2011/122011/12182011/670622/index_html
Rappahannock Group Sierra Club: virginia.sierraclub.org/rg
Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431