Washington County VA

Fewer restrictions in new hydrofracking draft ordinance

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Va. - The Washington County Board of Supervisors has decided to throw out an ordinance that would allow hydraulic fracturing in the county. They're not giving up on the idea and are creating a new ordinance that's less restrictive.

Hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, is the process of pumping chemical and sand-laced water into the ground to create cracks in the rock, allowing natural gas to flow out.

The county's original ordinance determined where hydrofracking could take place in the county and included regulations such as water testing and ways to reduce light pollution.

The Board decided Tuesday night to abandon that ordinance, passed along to them from the Planning Commission.

"[We] felt that we did not need to over-regulate what was already being regulated by the state, federal regulatory agencies," said Bill Gibson, a member of the Board of Supervisors.

The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy currently regulates the hydrofracking process.

Gibson said the new draft ordinance allows hydrofracking county-wide by special exemption permits.

"We can look at each case on an individual basis," he told us.

Rich Valley Road resident Karen Shaffer thinks it's a bad idea.

"It's just a widespread problem," Shaffer said. "Instead of containing it in an area and watching the development to make sure it's safe before it goes county-wide, they've just opened up the gates, the flood gates."

Shaffer told us the original ordinance included recommendations and studies by  the National Academy of Science, Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment, the US Geological Society, and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

"Protecting our water, testing for chemicals that are frequently used in fracking today, and testing for radioactive components as well," she explained.

Shaffer said their quality of life is at risk.

"People might think they have a right to drill but they don't have a right to mess up our air and water," she said.

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