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State, regional groups push for stronger Virginia fracking protections

earth-newFour environmental and public interest organizations joined forces to call on Governor Terry McAuliffe to conduct a comprehensive review of the state’s safeguards on fracking. The groups have raised concerns that current standards are inadequate and outdated given new risks associated with the latest fracking techniques for oil and gas extraction.

Modern hydraulic fracturing and well stimulation, commonly known as “fracking,” often includes millions of gallons of highly pressurized toxic fracking fluid and horizontal drilling, which is very different from, and much more hazardous than, traditional drilling currently used in Virginia. Water and air pollutants released from fracking operations are driving public health concerns in many states. Other states have recognized the need for a comprehensive study and review of their standards; as of yet, Virginia has not.

“Virginia leaders need to take a thorough look at our standards before fracking takes off in our state,” said Karen Shaffer, Virginia Organizing Washington County Chapter leader. “Governor McAuliffe has the opportunity to show that he cares about the health, safety and property of residents by taking this step.”

The groups have urged Governor McAuliffe not to grant any new permits for oil and gas drilling that would require fracking until such a comprehensive review has been undertaken.

“To grant permits prior to the completion of a thorough, interagency review and appropriate regulatory revisions would unnecessarily endanger Virginia’s citizens and the environment,” said Michael Bochynski, Virginia Program Organizer with Clean Water Action.

The request comes as the Virginia Department of Mines Minerals and Energy (DMME) concludes the revision of a few, narrow aspects of the state’s laws on fracking. While the groups agree that DMME’s pending proposal is a step in the right direction, they suggest that the changes are woefully insufficient. They insist that much more is needed.

“DMME has expressed the view that there is nothing new about fracking, when, in fact, modern fracking is radically different and more risky than low-volume fracking that has previously occurred in Virginia,” said Kate Addleson, Conservation Director for the Virginia Sierra Club.

Multiple reports have been released demonstrating the risks and harms of fracking, including a Compendium of Findings published in October 2015 by the Concerned Health Professionals of New York. Water contamination, which can threaten drinking supplies, has also been linked to fracking.

“There is mounting evidence of the health and environmental risks associated with fracking,” said Mark Frondorf, Shenandoah Riverkeeper. “Virginia needs to fully review the potential impacts of these modern operations and engage all appropriate agencies before issuing new permits.”

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