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.
Learn about the proposal to frack in the George Washington National Forest, the source of drinking water for Fairfax and the rest of the DC metropolitan area, from Dusty Horwitt of Earthworks. Dusty has used his experience in journalism, law, and politics to conduct investigative research and advocacy on metal mining, oil and natural gas drilling, and hydraulic fracturing. His work has helped protect the Grand Canyon and Colorado River from uranium mining and the state of New York from unsafe shale gas drilling.
New York City is not the only major metro area whose drinking water supply could be threatened by shale gas drilling. The Washington, DC area has joined the club.
That’s because the U.S. Forest Service could decide as early as October 2013 to allow horizontal drilling for shale gas in the George Washington National Forest, a 1.1. million-acre tract located in western Virginia and West Virginia that is the closest National Forest to Washington D.C. and contains the headwaters of the Potomac River that provides drinking water to more than 4 million people in the Washington area.
Local governments, major D.C. area water providers, and conservation organizations have warned that a U.S. Forest Service decision to allow fracking in the George Washington National Forest could threaten a range of resources -- including the D.C. area’s water supply. The Forest Service release their decision to allow fracking in parts of the forest in November 2014.
Deep underground the rolling foothills of Appalachia in Southwest Virginia lies a trove of uranium deposits. These deposits have remained untouched for a few billion years, but high metal prices and high unemployment rates have renewed interest in the possibility of mining the uranium for use in area nuclear power plants. The Commonwealth of Virginia has had a moratorium on uranium mining for 30 years. But in 2007, two families living near Virginia’s only economically viable uranium deposit in Coles Hill formed Virginia Uranium, Inc. to begin exploring the possibility of exploiting this resource.
The moratorium has left a dearth of hard rock mining technical expertise in the Commonwealth. For this reason, Virginia called in the National Research Council to report on scientific, environmental, public health, and regulatory aspects of uranium mining to help inform the Virginia legislature.
Today, a joint subcommittee oversight hearing entitled "Challenges facing Domestic Oil and Gas Development: Review of Bureau of Land Management/U.S. Forest Service Ban on Horizontal Drilling on Federal Lands" was held in the House of Representatives. Republican members challenged a proposed draft management plan for the George Washington National Forest to ban horizontal oil and gas drilling, as well as Bureau of Land Management efforts to regulate drilling on public lands.
A recent study by the Forest Service details the serious impact that drilling can have forests including the destruction of trees and other fauna. The report concludes: "Unexpected impacts, however, were perhaps more important, and because they could not be carefully controlled or planned for, are less likely to be mitigated successfully. It is obvious that unexpected, unpredicted events will occur during such activities, and therefore land managers should consider a wide range of possible effects when analyzing impacts on natural resources."