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VOF hosts forum on oil, gas policy

The Virginia Outdoors Foundation is holding a forum next month in Fredericksburg on oil and gas drilling and conservation easements.

The session, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library headquarters downtown, will address a topic that the foundation—Virginia’s largest holder of conservation easements—wants to clarify.

In October, the Warrenton-based Piedmont Environmental Council put out an action alert to members that allowing hydraulic fracturing on land that has been permanently protected with a conservation easement “is contrary to the purpose of most easements.”

Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is a drilling technique in which large volumes of water mixed with various chemicals is pumped underground at high pressure to fracture gas- and oil-bearing rock.

PEC’s alert went on to say that VOF, in its quarterly meeting in Charlottesville, would be taking up some easements “that would explicitly permit drilling for oil and gas, including the use of hydraulic fracturing, in areas that have little to no history of drilling.”

A conservation easement permanently protects land from most types of development.

The Shenandoah Valley Network also weighed in on the matter.

VOF spokesman Jason McGarvey at the time said the assertion that VOF permits fracking on easements is false.

“What we do have is some landowners who retain subsurface oil and gas rights, and that is allowed under IRS regulation for [conservation] easements,” he said.

At its October meeting, the VOF board of trustees decided to put off approval of any new easements until after its quarterly meeting next month.

Looming over the discussion is the prospect of oil and gas drilling in the Taylorsville basin east of Interstate 95, where Texas-based Shore Exploration and Production Corp. has secured leases on more than 84,000 acres.

The basin runs through parts of the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula, including Westmoreland, Caroline and King George counties and Colonial Beach. Roughly half of those leases have been signed with landowners in Caroline.

VOF has 144 easements in the basin, including 21 in which owners have retained oil and gas rights.

McGarvey said Wednesday that the forum will help landowners and the pubic learn more about oil and gas production and conservation easement.

And, “This is a way for us to invite more public comment on our policies,” he said.

The forum will feature presentations by Kate Wofford of the Shenandoah Valley Network, Charles E. Schwarz of the Northcentral cqPennsylvania Conservancy and Michael Ward, with the Virginia Petroleum Council.

VOF staff will give an overview of foundation policies allowing landowners to donate conservation easements while retaining limited oil and gas rights.

Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431 


WHO: Virginia Outdoors Foundation

WHAT: Public forum to discuss policies relating to oil and gas production on conservation easements

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, March 13

WHERE: Central Rappahannock Regional Library headquarters, 1201 Caroline St.

DETAILS: Presentations by outside experts and staff; question-and-answer session


The Virginia Outdoors Foundation was created by the General Assembly in 1966 to promote the preservation of open-space lands and to preserve natural, scenic, historic, scientific, open-space and recreational areas.

It holds more than 3,700 easements encompassing nearly 730,000 acres.