RSS feed of this blog

Meetings set on fracking

Though the industry says fracking can be done safely and responsibly, Friends of the Rappahannock is gearing up to address environmental concerns about an energy company’s drilling plans from Caroline County through the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula.

The Fredericksburg-based river conservation group is holding two workshops in December “for landowners considering leasing or who have already leased their land for oil drilling,” according to a press release. The meetings are also “for elected officials and members of the public concerned about landowner rights and the impacts of gas development.”

The sessions will be held from 6:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m. on Dec. 11 in Bowling Green, and Dec. 12 at the same time in either Oak Grove or Montross in Westmoreland County. The locations for the meetings have not yet been announced.

The workshops center on Texas-based Shore Exploration and Production Corp., which has secured leases on more than 80,000 acres in the Taylorsville basin east of Interstate 95, where it wants to drill. The company says it hopes to begin drilling within a year to 18 months.

If that happens, Shore would be the first company to drill in Virginia’s Coastal Plain in the geological formation that runs from Virginia’s Middle Peninsula, north under the Potomac River into Maryland.

It would probably be using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to release oil and natural gas from shale deposits under the Taylorsville basin. Fracking is a drilling technique in which water, chemicals, sand and other fluids are injected into the ground to fracture gas- and oil-bearing deposits, making them easier to recover.

Shore President Stan Sherrill has said that the drilling can be done without harm to the environment, and that state oversight would help ensure that it is done properly.

A representative of the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy has said that any drilling in the Taylorsville basin would require state review and permits, and would have added scrutiny because the work would be first of its type along Virginia’s coast.

According to the DMME, fracking has been used in about 1,800 wells producing natural gas from shale, sandstone and limestone formations in southwest Virginia. The agency says that, to date, there have been no water quality issues directly associated with fracking there.

Companies using the technologies around the country contend the process is safe, creating jobs and revenue for localities.

According to FOR, as of July, Shore had obtained leases on 40,733 acres in Caroline, 13,864 acres in Westmoreland, 13,338 acres in Essex County, 10,443 acres in King George County and 6,010 acres in King and Queen County.

In its notice for the workshops, FOR notes that the Virginia Oil & Gas Act “prohibits local governments from banning or placing a moratorium on energy development,” but that localities “can provide significant oversight on the location, pace and scale of drilling if they update their land use plans and zoning ordinances.”

Other environmental groups have also expressed concerns about Shore’s plans, including Rappahannock Group Sierra Club, and the Sierra Club’s Virginia chapter.

Founded in Fredericksburg in 1985, FOR three years ago hired a river steward and opened a satellite office in Tappahannock to coordinate its lower-river programs. The oil and gas workshops are the latest in its advocacy efforts there.

Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431




Members of the King George County Board of Supervisors will discuss what they legally can or can’t allow in terms of fracking.

In October, Supervisor Ruby Brabo suggested members “be prudent” and research what they can do, under state law and local ordinances, before companies request special exception permits to drill.

Brabo is concerned about a state law that requires drilling companies to put up a $25,000 bond to cover any damage caused.

“The current requirement … would never suffice to cover any impacts that could potentially be caused by fracking,” she said.

Supervisor Joe Grzeika brought up the need to get moving on the discussion last week, and the board decided to schedule a discussion in January.

Stan Sherrill, president of Shore Exploration and Production Corp., said he understands questions about fracking and said “the environment has to be the No. 1 concern.”

He said it’s in the company’s best interest to follow the rules. “You only get one chance to mess up,” he said.

Sherrill said there are positive impacts in terms of jobs and revenue.

If oil and gas is collected from the Northern Neck, localities would get 3 percent of the revenue.

“We’re talking about a tremendous amount of money,” Sherrill said. “And the counties involved are not real wealthy counties. It’s very much in their interest.”

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425