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Arlington County, Virginia joined a growing number of local governments, elected officials and major water providers in unanimously passing a resolution opposing horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the George Washington National Forest.

By passing the resolution June 17, Arlington became the first jurisdiction in politically powerful Northern Virginia to oppose horizontal drilling in the forest, though several elected officials from the region have already taken the same stance including U.S. Reps. Jim Moran and Gerald E. Connolly and State Delegate Patrick Hope.  Former Virginia Lieutenant Governor, Don Beyer, who recently won the Democratic primary to replace Moran, who is retiring, has also opposed horizontal drilling and fracking in the forest.

In January, Earthworks and Arlington-based Michelle’s Earth Foundation hosted a public forum in Arlington about the risks of horizontal drilling and fracking in the forest (see Washington Post coverage of the issue and the event).

The 1.1-million-acre forest, located in Virginia and West Virginia, encompasses headwaters of the Potomac River that is Arlington’s sole source of drinking water.  The county’s water provider, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Washington Aqueduct wrote to the U.S. Forest Service in 2011 in support of the service’s draft management plan that included a prohibition on horizontal drilling and fracking in the forest.

“Although studies on the technique [horizontal drilling and fracking] are still needed in order to fully understand the potential impacts to drinking water,” the Washington Aqueduct’s General Manager Thomas P. Jacobus wrote, “enough study on the technique has been done and information has been published to give us great cause for concern about the potential for degradation of the quality of our raw water supply as well as impact to the quantity of the supply.”

Washington area water providers Fairfax Water and DC Water wrote similar letters.

After lobbying by more than a dozen drilling companies and trade associations including the American Petroleum Institute, Halliburton Energy Services Inc., and XTO Energy, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil Corp., the Forest Service has said that it is reconsidering its position to prohibit horizontal drilling in the forest.  The agency has said that it expects to make a final decision this year.

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