Forum to detail issues with fracking

A request for a special-use permit that would allow a Texas-based energy company to drill for natural gas in Rockingham County is perhaps permanently on the table. Locals still need to arm themselves with knowledge of the process known as hydrofracture that companies use to extract natural gas from the ground and its long list of impacts on those communities where that work is done.

“Look before you leap,” said Gwen Lachelt, director, Oil and Gas Accountability Project at Earthworks, who first came to knowledge of natural-gas drilling in the late 1980s when Amoco, now BP, announced plans to drill a thousand natural-gas wells in and around her community in Western Colorado.

Lachelt will be in Broadway on Thursday, May 5, for a public forum on natural-gas exploration and its impact on local communities being organized by the Shenandoah Valley Network. The forum will be held at J. Frank Hillyard Middle School, 226 Hawks Hill Drive, Broadway, and will run from 6:30-8 p.m.

She remembers her neighbors in Colorado in the 1980s “being felt they were caught off-guard,” she said, when they were first approached by the landmen, as the representatives of drillers who visited residents to try to get them to sign over the rights to explore their properties came to be called.

“They felt powerless. They didn’t know what it meant to sign a lease. They were signing the leases that companies gave them. They felt very intimidated by the landman,” Lachelt said.

The information gap can lead to irreversibly bad decisions on the part of landowners. “You will sign away your right to have a say where facilities are located on your land, where roads are built, where wells go on your land. And often people are not adequately compensated for their mineral rights or for their surface use and damages,” Lachelt said.

“It makes such a difference when the landowners are informed and understand what they’re doing,” Lachelt said. “We want people to go into this process with their eyes wide open so that if they decide to leap, at least they know what they’re getting into and understand what it all means.”

The request for a special-use permit made by Carrizo to drill on a lease it owns in the northwest corner of Rockingham County was tabled by Carrizo last summer after intense community opposition was aroused. A spokesman for Carrizo told hburgnews.com that “very aggressive local push-back” was a key in the company’s decision to stop actively pursuing the permit.

Lachelt credited local residents and local leaders for raising issues with the permit request. Communities, she said, need to be vigilant in making sure that they’re looking out for their long-term futures.

“What are you going to do to protect your water, your air, your landscape? How are you going to protect your community infrastructure? There are a lot of things for communities to consider before giving the green light,” Lachelt said.

If natural-gas development is going to happen, “make sure that it happens in a way that respects the people, respects the land, and makes it so that you have something to leave for future generations,” Lachelt said.

“The natural-gas industry does an incredible job promoting natural gas as clean energy. We do not believe that natural gas is a clean energy source. We believe that natural gas is a part of our energy mix. But let’s not call it clean energy. Don’t pull the wool over our eyes and call it dealing with climate change and throw a lot of support and incentives to natural-gas drilling. It’s another dirty fossil fuel,” Lachelt said.

Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at augustafreepress2@gmail.com.

         
 

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