Virginia Sierra Club calls for strong fracking regulations
The Virginia Sierra Club is urging the state to withhold drilling permits for modern fracking techniques until the commonwealth completes an independent study on the risks and implements regulations to protect the public.
In a statement released Wednesday, the Sierra Club said natural-gas drilling companies have targeted parts of Western and Eastern Virginia, including the Marcellus Shale and Taylorsville Basin, for natural-gas extraction, using high-volume hydraulic fracturing coupled with horizontal drilling.
“This aggressive form of fracking would be new to Virginia, but it has caused well-documented damage to health, the environment and community well-being in other states,” the statement said.
“This makes it imperative that Virginia puts strong regulations in place before fracking occurs here,” Linda Burchfiel, fracking issues chair for the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, said in the statement.
According to the environmental group, modern fracking would bring industrial type development to rural and residential areas with potentially lasting harm to landscapes, water supplies and communities.
On Wednesday, the Sierra Club submitted its written recommendations for best management practices to the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME). It had previously submitted recommendations to require complete public disclosure of chemicals and baseline testing of water near the wells.
While gas drilling is not new to Virginia, the Sierra Club noted that drilling methods have changed. To get at gas trapped within rock formations, it said companies now use a technique that shoots millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals down well bores at high pressure to break up the rock and release gas.
“Millions of gallons of wastewater comes up with the gas and is so contaminated that it cannot be treated by any Virginia wastewater treatment plant but must be trucked offsite and stored,” the club’s statement said.
“This is not your father’s gas well,” said Burchfiel. “Fracking today means 24 hours per day of noisy machinery, diesel fumes, bright lights, and constant truck traffic.”Calling the state’s regulatory framework on fracking too limited, the Sierra Club wants the DMME to undertake a broader public review of fracking issues and regulations and to bring the Department of Health (VDH) and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) directly into the permitting and enforcement process.
The group warned that permits could potentially be granted under the current regulations. “It’s crazy to grant permits before the regulations are updated,” Burchfiel pointed out. “Virginia is not ready yet.”