Hydraulic Fracturing Endangers Water Supply; Energy Deregulation in Action
This article is retrieved from a cache for newtimes.com and apparently comes from the Associated Press. It seems the article is gone from newtimes.com already. Interesting.
Follow up after reading: "Gasland" - HBO documentary OnDemand;
Virginia House race takes up 'fracking' debate
STEVE SZKOTAK, Associated Press Writer
Published: 02:43 p.m., Monday, June 14, 2010
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The first proposal in Virginia to drill into a gas-rich formation of Appalachian shale has emerged as a campaign issue in a special election for a General Assembly seat.
The three-way race in the 26th House District focuses on an exploratory well proposed in Rockingham County and the process of extracting the natural gas, calledhydraulicfracturing, or fracking. The removal technique blasts water, sand and chemicals underground to release gas. Some critics fear the possible effects on water supplies.
One candidate wants to ensure that energy companies are accountable, another favors drilling but only if done safely and a third wants a moratorium while the environmental effects of fracking are studied.
Some states, such as New York, are tightening natural gas drilling regulations to protect watersheds that could be threatened by the process.
Energy companies have been eager to extract huge deposits of natural gas from Marcellus Shale, a rock bed roughly the size of Greece that lies about 6,000 feet beneath New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. Geologists say it could become the most productive natural gas field in the U.S., capable of supplying the entire country's needs for up to two decades by some estimates.
The Shenandoah Valley drilling is proposed by Carrizo (Marcellus) LLC, a Houston drilling company that wants to use hydraulicfracturing for natural gas exploration in Bergton. The community is north of Harrisonburg near the West Virginia border.
Carrizo has applied for a permit for exploratory drilling with the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, the first in Virginia seeking to drill into Marcellus Shale, according to the department. A special use permit is pending before Rockingham County.
In Tuesday's special election, all three candidates have staked out positions on the proposed drilling.
Harrisonburg Mayor Kai Degner, the Democrat, promises to introduce legislation to ensure that energy companies are financially accountable for any damages from drilling. He said he also will press companies to reveal the chemical ingredients used to break up shale for gas. The various recipes for fracking are closely guarded industry secrets.
"It's a big deal," Degner, a member of the Harrisonburg City Council, said of the drilling proposal. "I think people are just beginning to see just what this actually means."
Republican Tony Wilt, president and general manager of a concrete company, said he supports the energy independence that natural gas drilling represents but he wants to make sure it's done safely. He contends he's unfairly been portrayed as an advocate of drill-at-any-cost.
"Some of his (Degner's) campaign literature is painting me as drill, baby, drill, and that is anything but the truth. It has to be done safely," Wilt said. He said state and federal rules must be in place before drilling occurs.
An independent, City Councilwoman Carolyn Frank, proposes a two-year moratorium on fracking so its environmental costs can be assessed. She did not respond to an e-mail from The Associated Press.
Robert Wilson, a geologist who lives in Rockingham County, said Carrizo is interested in "a little corner up in the northwest edge of the county" where the Marcellus Shale skims the western border of Virginia.
He said the drill site is in a rock fault between the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and Allegheny Mountains to the west.
Wilson, who has contributed to Degner's campaign, said Virginia should regulate the fracking used to extract gas from Marcellus Shale.
"Virginia's oil and gas regulations are 20 years old. They need to be updated," he said.
The Environmental Protection Agency plans to study the impact of fracking on the environment and human health. In 2004, the agency said there was no evidence that fracking threatens drinking water quality.
The industry contends environmental concerns are inflated.
The special election is intended to fill a vacancy left by the appointment of Matt Lohr as commissioner of agriculture. The district includes Harrisonburg and the northern portions of Rockingham County