- Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 July 2014 10:59
- Published on Wednesday, 30 July 2014 10:43
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Board to request state fracking legislation requiring environmental review prior to exploratory drilling for gas
The King George Board of Supervisors directed that a resolution be prepared for its review and approval that would ask state legislators to consider amending an existing law that would require an in-depth report on environmental and related matters by the state prior to any fracking activity in the Tidewater area.
That direction was given at a meeting on July 15.
Currently the law only requires such a study be prepared prior to the production of commercially recoverable quantities of oil, and not gas, in the Tidewater region.
For the applicable law, Tidewater is defined as including King George and the rest of the localities that touch on the Taylorsville Basin, an ancient geologic formation deep in the earth that contains shale believed to contain oil and gas.
The decision to ask for an amendment to an existing law was made following a discussion of the merits of instead approving a resolution approved by another county, asking for the state to move forward with a study.
That resolution was nixed because the section of state law cited in the resolution doesn’t require such a study in regard to fracking.
Another reason to instead ask to amend the law was to do nothing to speed up and expedite the state review process. Supervisors are in no hurry to encourage companies to make applications for gas fracking.
The Board is also planning to direct the Planning Commission later this summer to make changes to the county’s ordinances to address land use issues that would mitigate the effects of fracking, should a company go forward with a fracking application to the state.
AMENDMENT TO EXISTING LEGISLATION
The board will ask for the existing law to be amended to provide the same type of state review for gas drilling as it does for oil drilling.
If gas is likewise anticipated to be drilled for commercial recovery, Supervisors want that section of law to also apply to it and trigger an in-depth state review at that time.
Travis Quesenberry, county administrator, indicated the requested draft resolution would be available for the next board meeting on Aug. 5.
Board members concurred they would send such a resolution, after review and approval by the board, to state Senators Ryan McDougle and Richard Stuart, and Delegate Margaret Ransone.
COUNTY ATTORNEY ON DMME ADVISORY PANEL
County attorney Eric Gregory is expected to develop the resolution for the board.
Gregory is currently participating on a state advisory panel of the Department of Mines, Minerals & Energy (DMME), called the DMME Gas and Oil Regulatory Advisory Panel.
That panel is known to have so far met three times, on June 4, July 2, and July 23. A report from Gregory about the panel’s discussions would be expected to be presented to the board at a future meeting.
RESULT OF PROPOSED AMENDMENT
If the state law were to be amended, the Director of DMME would be required to notify the Secretary of Commerce and Trade and the Secretary of Natural Resources prior to a permit being issued for gas drilling.
Those secretaries would then be expected to develop a joint report to the Governor and the General Assembly assessing the environmental risks and safeguards, addressing transportation issues, descriptions of state-of-the-art oil production well technology, along with the economic impacts.
Regulatory initiatives and operational standards would be triggered, along with other matters related to the production of gas in the region.
If the law were amended by the General Assembly, it would also hold up issuance of any permits for gas production wells until the Governor has an opportunity to review the report and make recommendations in the public interest for legislative and regulatory changes.
In addition, during the following regular session of the General Assembly, that body would be required to act on the Governor’s recommendations, or on its own initiatives, with any resulting legislation regarding the gas drilling issue becoming effective prior to any issuance by DMME of a permit for gas drilling.