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King George board, residents focus on gas fracking

SPECIAL REPORT: ‘Almost heaven’ or fracking hell?

King George County residents and officials alike are attempting to educate themselves about fracking, but in different ways.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the process of injecting water, chemicals and sand deep into the ground to fracture the rock and release trapped natural gas. A Texas company has leased 84,000 acres in King George and four other counties in the Taylorsville basin with the hopes of drilling for gas.

King George resident Tammy Indseth wrote in an email to county supervisors that she and several friends are concerned about the impacts fracking might have on the community.

To help educate others, she’s organized a public viewing of the movie “Gasland,” for 6 p.m. tonight Thursday, July 17 at the Smoot Memorial Library in King George.

The documentary details a cross-country odyssey by filmmaker Josh Fox as he attempted to learn more about gas drilling. One of the most famous scenes is from a Pennsylvania town where fracking took place. Residents show how they can set their tap water on fire as a result of gas that seeped into water wells after fracking.

Space is limited, and those attending are asked to call 540/709-7495 to reserve a seat.

Supervisors, who pointed out that the movie is not a county-sponsored activity, are dealing with their own fracking issues.

For the first time Tuesday night, several expressed public opinions on the controversial topic.

Supervisor Ruby Brabo asked fellow board members in February to approve a resolution passed by other localities in the Taylorsville basin. The resolution asks the state to conduct an additional study on the risks involved with fracking.

Essex County passed it in March, followed by the town of Kilmarnock and Westmoreland County.

The resolution asks the governor, secretary of commerce and trade, and secretary of natural resources to complete a joint report that looks at environmental, transportation, economic and regulatory issues pertaining to oil and gas drilling in the Tidewater region.

The study would be in addition to an environmental impact assessment gas companies have to pay for as part of their application to drill.

Brabo asked for the resolution to be brought up again, after the county held a town hall meeting in June about fracking.

King George supervisors Joe Grzeika and Dale Sisson Jr. said on Tuesday that they viewed the resolution as a request to bring the fracking process to the county that much sooner.

Grzeika said he wasn’t interested in expediting the process, and Sisson’s words were even stronger.

“I don’t want to pass something that looks like we’re asking for the process to move quicker,” Sisson said. “There’s no general support for bringing this kind of function to King George County. We’re looking to tighten our ordinances to control this as we see fit.”

Grzeika said he didn’t want to “prevent or induce fracking,” but to “get our land-use ordinances in place to make sure, if it ever comes here, we’ve thought through what we want and what conditions we want in place to protect our community.”

The board agreed to ask the General Assembly to include the impacts of gas drilling in a study.

Supervisors also plan to pick up a second fracking-related discussion that started in January. That’s when County Attorney Eric Gregory told them that county ordinances pertaining to gas drilling are vague and need to be updated.

Current ordinances deal with only exploratory drilling, not production of wells, Gregory said. He suggested the ordinances be updated, and board members agreed it would be good to get the Planning Commission involved.

But the board has never discussed what regulations it wants planners to review. Supervisors decided on Tuesday to include that topic in an upcoming meeting that’s already packed with items.

The work session will be held at 6:30 p.m., Aug. 21 in the boardroom. In addition to fracking regulations, the supervisors will talk about capital improvement plans, including the need for new and renovated fire and rescue stations. They’ll also discuss the tourism budget and School Board spending.

The work session is open to the public, but residents will not get an opportunity to comment.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425


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