- Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 February 2014 13:35
- Published on Wednesday, 12 February 2014 09:59
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Fracking for natural gas and oil was the big topic on last week’s agenda of the King George Board of Supervisors meeting on Feb. 4, with presentations from three representatives from the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME).
The meeting, held at the Citizens Center to accommodate a larger audience, drew about 175 members of the public, in addition to county staff, public officials and press.
The presentations were preceded by public comment time, which brought forward 21 commenting, with 18 of those speaking on the topic of fracking.
Hydraulic fracturing – called fracking, or hydrofracking – is a process whereby chemicals and water are forced deep into the ground to fracture the shale rock strata to release natural gas.
The process involves drilling more than a mile down, then turning sideways and drilling further to place piping. Explosives are set off inside the pipe to punch holes into it to disperse the pressured chemicals and water solution.
~ PUBLIC COMMENTS All comments were presented in a spirit of respect and congeniality which followed the tone set by Dale Sisson in his invocation at the top of the meetings and comments from Chairman Joe Grzeika indicating the plan for the flow and order of the meeting of the governing body.
Of those commenting on the fracking issue, four of those were non-county residents, coming from Essex, Stafford, Louisa and Westmoreland.
Most of the speakers generally or specifically expressed concerns against gas and oil mining and many cited facts from their researched documentation.
Concerns expressed included the potential for water contamination from known and unknown chemicals, diminishing the aquifer levels through industrial withdrawals, industrialization of the rural areas, along with noise pollution, increased truck traffic and resulting damage to county roads.
Two non-county residents urged Supervisors to keep an open mind about fracking. One of those was a contract employee for Shore Exploration and the other said he had an interest because he owned various parcels of land in region, region.
~ CHAIRMAN COMMENTS Following the public comments, Grzeika stated, “Just so everybody understands, we are not pursuing any wells at this point in time in King George. There have been no permits or applications. And so we’re trying to get ahead of the curve to do our homework to understand and then look at what we need to do to protect our aquifer and those assets based on science. So that’s what we’re doing and we appreciate your input. And tonight is the second presentation.”
He referred to County Attorney Eric Gregory’s presentation at the previous meeting on the county ordinances and state law and current regs.
From the numerous intelligent, reasoned comments from the public, Grzeika also later said his favorite take-away from the comments was the ‘last step first.’ Grzeika added, “That was really a good one.” That comment had come from speaker Jim Buckley, who said, “Any good plan, any good group of planners, always plans the last step first. As the leadership you need to ask this, if it fails, what’s your back up plan?”
~ DMME PRESENTATIONS DMME representatives included Bradley Lambert, Deputy Director of DMME, David Spears, State Geologist, and Rick Cooper, Director of the Gas and oil division. They spoke about the gas and oil development specifically in the Tidewater region and the Taylorsville Basin. Their comments were lengthy.
DMME officials noted that the aquifer is protected by a thick concrete casing when they drill through the aquifer to get to the shale beneath.
They also indicated that hydro-fracking may not be used in this area, indicating that nitrogen or other types of fracking using less water could be done in this region should permits be approved by state and local authorities.
press the following link to download/see the 'Gas and Oil Well Drilling Requirements for the Tidewater Area' presentation.
press the following link to download/see 'Natural Gas Resources of the Taylorsville Mesozoic Basin' presentation.
~ MORE FACT-FINDING The presentations from DMME were part of the King George board’s fact-finding for educating itself and county residents on dealing with any potential applications that might come forward to ask for drilling permits in the county.
During a special meeting this week on Monday, Feb. 10, called primarily for budgeting matters, county administrator Travis Quesenberry said he had inquired of DMME about the location of the closest active well, saying he was told the nearest is in Buchanan county.
Supervisors indicated an interest in visiting the site, with Grzeika saying he was interested in seeing the size of the mining area and the physical impact of the site. He added that what one thing he took away from his researching the issue is the impact on agricultural lands by the industrialization of the mining operation, and the need for vegetative buffers, fencing, and dealing with impacts on roads.
Grzeika also stated that there are plans underway to have Shore Exploration provide a presentation as part of the county’s fact-finding at an upcoming board meeting.
~ COUNTY COMMENTS PROVIDED TO DMME RE INTENDED REGULATORY ACTION Later in the meeting, County Attorney Eric Gregory distributed copies of proposed comments to go to the DMME in regard to amendments contemplated that would require disclosure of the ingredients used in oil and gas well drilling, and would also reflect current industry best practices, along with a determination on whether current requirements are sufficient to properly regulate drilling in different geographical areas of the Commonwealth.
Supervisors provided concurrence for the Gregory’s draft comments to go forward from the county earlier this week to be submitted to the state as public comments from the locality.
The comments from the county are extensive and ask for strengthening the current regs in several areas.
~ STATE LEGISLATION A bill initiated by state Senator Richard Stuart passed the senate last week as Senate Bill 48. If that legislation goes forward in the General Assembly, it would add another layer of environmental review to applications to the DMME for mining activities in this region including oil and gas drilling. It would be expected to result in a temporary moratorium on mining in the region until new regulations could be promulgated for the Department of Environmental Quality.
press to download/see the 'Gas and Oil Well Drilling Requirements for the Tidewater Area' presentation.
press to download/see 'Natural Gas Resources of the Taylorsville Mesozoic Basin' presentation.