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Drilling company official says no rush on fracking

As King George County supervisors continue to discuss gas drilling, a representative from the company that has leased acreage for that very purpose has told board members there’s no rush.

“This is not something to be concerned about in the immediate future,” said Ken Snow, a land man with Shore Exploration and Production Corp. of Texas. “There is no immediate plan for drilling right away; no permits have been requested.”

Snow lives in Essex County and works out of Shore’s office in Bowling Green. He said after the Board of Supervisors’ meeting on Tuesday that his company continues to work on leasing more acreage in the Taylorsville basin.

The basin is south and east of Fredericksburg and consists of pieces of five counties: Caroline, Essex, King George, King and Queen and Westmoreland. So far, more than 84,000 acres have been leased, with the most being in Caroline.

King George supervisors have held informational meetings and discussions throughout the year about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking—the process of injecting water and chemicals deep into the ground to loosen trapped natural gas.

The county hasn’t adopted any zoning ordinances or regulations to address possible drilling. Supervisors are scheduled to talk about those during a work session at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 21 in the boardroom of the Revercomb Administration Center.

Supervisors have debated a resolution that other localities in the Taylorsville basin have passed. The version the board looked at last week asked legislators to include natural gas drilling in a study that state officials would do. The study would look at various facets of production, including environmental risks and economic impacts, transportation issues and operational standards.

The state-sponsored study would be in addition to the environmental impact assessment a gas company would have to do as part of its application.

The King George supervisors decided to proceed in a different direction. Chairman Joe Grzeika suggested forwarding the resolution to the Regulatory Advisory Panel appointed by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy.

County Attorney Eric Gregory is a member of the panel, which was organized to look over current state regulations on drilling and make recommendations.

The group hasn’t been asked to recommend legislation, but Gregory said it wouldn’t hurt to pass the resolution to the panel.

“I’d like to see us push the bureaucrats who are looking at this a little bit,” Grzeika said.

If the panel doesn’t make a recommendation by early fall, the supervisors could send the matter directly to state legislators.

Supervisor Dale Sisson Jr. agreed there’s no need to rush.

“We really do have the time to deliberate,” he said.

Sisson added that there seems to be a sense of urgency for the board to do something, when even industry officials say there’s no hurry.

Shore officials initially indicated they hoped to drill this year or by mid-2015, but that timetable no longer seems realistic.

For the second time in two meetings, Sisson said the board doesn’t favor fracking.

“We’ve all expressed our concerns that we don’t want this done here,” he said.

Supervisor Ruby Brabo, who initially proposed the resolution in February, agreed with Grzeika about sending it to the regulatory panel.

But she took offense with Shore’s statement that there’s no need for immediate concern.

She said gas drilling could industrialize or destroy “our county’s rural character” and possibly contaminate the aquifer, its “one and only source of water.”

“These are immediate concerns,” Brabo said. “It is important for this board to be proactive versus reactive.”

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425

cdyson@freelancestar.com

 

Regional fracking discussion set Sept. 3

A Northern Neck agency is hosting a panel discussion about fracking that will feature several state officials, as well as representatives from environmental groups and the gas industry. It should be “a most interesting discussion,” said Jerry Davis, director of the Northern Neck Planning District Commission.

The commission formed the Northern Neck–Chesapeake Bay Region Partnership in 2001. That’s the group hosting the event. The partnership consists of elected, business and educational representatives who work together “for the good of the entire region,” according to its website.

The fracking panel discussion is planned for 2 p.m. Sept. 3 in Room 122 of the Rappahannock Community College’s Warsaw campus. Invitations were sent to elected officials in the counties that make up the Northern Neck Planning Commission: Northumberland, Lancaster, Richmond and Westmoreland.

King George County also was included because it partners with the Northern Neck on economic and tourism initiatives.

Davis said officials from Caroline, Essex and King and Queen counties—other localities in the Taylorsville basin where land has been leased for possible gas drilling—are welcome to attend. The community college is making the panel discussion part of its lecture series and will broadcast it at all of its campuses.

Davis noted in the invitation that educational meetings about hydraulic fracturing have been going on for eight months. It’s “either a financial windfall for landowners and communities or an environmental Pandora’s box, depending on whom you ask,” he wrote.

The panel includes state commerce secretary Maurice Jones; Molly Ward, state secretary of natural resources; Rick Parrish, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center; Greg Kozera, past president of the Virginia Oil and Gas Association; and a representative from the Environmental Protection Agency.

—Cathy Dyson

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