WASHINGTON COUNTY, Va. - There was a heated discussion over hydraulic fracturing in Washington County, Va. on Tuesday night, as the Board of Supervisors talked about whether to move towards allowing it in the county.
Hydrofracking, as it's called, is the process of injecting chemical and sand-laced water into rock to open cracks, allowing natural gas to flow out.
The board had to decide whether to pass a re-zoning ordinance allowing hydrofracking, or take more time to look it over and make changes.
County residents packed the meeting room to hear the decision.
They took turns speaking to the board during the public comment period, which lasted for more than an hour. Twenty-three people in total gave their opinions.
Virginia Oil and Gas Association spokesperson Beth Stockner told the board that she supports natural gas drilling here because it's a step towards energy independence for the United States. She also voiced concern they will increase regulations on gas companies.
"We're already regulated by the state and federal agencies and do not require any further regulations," Stockner said.
The State Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy currently regulates all hydrofracking in the Commonwealth.
The proposal the board has in front of it is to re-zone land along Rich Valley Road, possibly up to Saltville, to allow gas companies to drill on that land.
Stockner told us it is only recently that hydrofracking stopped in Washington County.
"There's been hydraulic fracturing going on in Washington County since the 1960's, so it's nothing new," she said.
Mary Puckett, who lives on Phillips Road, told us she's still against the idea.
"I do not understand how, if you just did the basic research and knew the basic facts about hydrofracking, how anyone could ever say yes to it," Puckett said.
She told us she's done research into the road damage she said will be caused by the trucks bringing water in and out of the county for the hydrofracking process. Puckett also has concerns about how the chemical-laden water will be disposed.
She told us there are too many risks.
"I mean no one can live without clean air, no one can live without clean water," said Puckett.
The board did pass a motion to have an employee with the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy come speak to them about the risks of the gas drilling before they move forward with the ordinance.
If they decide to pass it, it will go back to the planning commission for adjustments and then be returned to them for a final vote.