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County wants new rules for oil, gas drilling

The King George board of supervisors  wants the planning commission to review the county’s ordinance regarding gas and oil drilling.

Supervisors want a report within nine months detailing recommendations and potential amendments to address and tighten up the comprehensive plan, along with recommendations for amending the zoning ordinance. An interim report is wanted at the four-month mark.
At this point, no application has been made to the state for drilling in King George or any locality overlaying the Taylorsville Basin, an ancient geologic shale formation deep in the earth believed to contain oil and gas. When supervisors’ chairman Joe Grzeika, introduced the agenda item at a recent meeting, he chose his words carefully.

Panel talk today
The Northern Neck Chesapeake Bay Region Partnership is having a panel discussion on hydraulic fracturing in the Northern Neck at 2 p.m. Sept. 3, at the Warsaw Campus of Rappahannock Community College.
Panel participants include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward, Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones, Rick Parrish from the Southern Environmental Law Center, and past-president Greg Kozera of the Virginia Oil and Gas Association.
Fracking currently is exempt from federal regulations in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, as well as regulations in the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.
That could change. The EPA announced in May it was seeking public comment, due by Sept. 18, on the types of chemical information to be disclosed and on obtaining information for chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing under the Toxic Substances Control Act, including possible non-regulatory approaches such as incentives and recognition programs to support development and the use of safer chemicals in the extraction process.
Phyllis Cook


“The intent here is to determine what we want the planning commission to work on,” he said. “And you’ll notice I’m not using the ‘F’ word. That’s intentional because when we talk about the planning commission and the land use aspects, we’re really talking about drilling and the activities on a drill site.”

The F-word refers to fracking. Drilling is underway in other parts of Virginia through a method called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The process involves drilling deep into the ground and then injecting fluid at high pressure to fracture fissures in shale rock to release natural gas for extraction.

Regarding the commission’s task, Grzeika stressed: “We don’t want them getting involved with the environmental aspect of it, which must be handled by the state for permits. Let’s focus on our land use and how we address the industrialized aspect of well drilling in our rural areas.”

Eric Gregory, the county attorney, agreed the environmental part was out of the board’s purview.

Grzeika said a benefit of requiring a special exception permit allows conditions to be incorporated beyond requirements in the zoning ordinance.  

Supervisor Dale Sisson agreed. “Ultimately, we want to maintain control through the special exception process. To the maximum extent possible, we want to institutionalize that control in our ordinance,” Sisson said.  

It also was suggested planners identify other potential ordinance areas for review.

Supervisor Ruby Brabo asked about such issues as lighting, flaring, and truck traffic, with Grzeika saying some could go into a special exception permit as conditions, with others to be noted by planners for further review.  

Gregory said in January the existing ordinance addresses exploratory drilling for oil or natural gas in districts zoned agricultural with a special exception permit. It limits drill sites to 4 acres, and none within 500 feet of an occupied residence. It requires site, ingress and egress and erosion and sediment control plans, along with an environmental impact assessment and operation plan, which first must be filed with the state. Gregory said then the board could amend the zoning ordinance to also address such other things as noise, dust, traffic impact and additional setbacks from schools and churches, as well as address compression stations and pipelines attached to drilling facilities.

Phyllis Cook

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