Should fracking for natural gas be allowed in the George Washington National Forest?
Forest shouldn’t be sacrificed for one industrial use
By Sarah Francisco
The oil and gas industry claims that opening the George Washington National Forest to drilling and fracking is the best choice for our children’s future. I imagine most people who have visited the GW will think that protecting a beloved forest where many have learned to hunt, fish and camp is what’s important for future generations.
Greg Kozera accurately describes the GW as a beautiful, multiuse forest — as he makes the case to sacrifice that for a single industrial use. When I envision the future, I want the same trails, views and trout streams to be enjoyed by families for years to come, without those landscapes scarred by drilling sites, access roads, heavy truck traffic and pipelines.
Clean water should be a top priority for this and future generations as well, and the GW is a source of drinking water for more than 260,000 people. The industry makes the highly questionable claim that no water contamination has been proven, but families from Pennsylvania and West Virginia who’ve seen shale gas drilling and fracking come to their communities paint a very different picture of what it can do to drinking water, streams and rural lands. Contrary to the assertion that fracking has happened for decades, this type of horizontal shale gas drilling and high-volume fracking has occurred only in the past few years, and we are just beginning to study the risks.
While the negative impacts are clear, the potential benefits are questionable at best. This is not a question of energy independence. The forest’s location on the edge of the Marcellus Shale makes it unlikely drilling will be viable, so the GW will not impact our country’s energy supply in the short or long term. Let’s make a decision that our children will be proud to inherit when it’s their turn to care for their forest.
Francisco is National Forests and Parks Program Leader for the Southern Environmental Law Center.
Fracking helps to free U.S. from energy tyrants
By Greg Kozera
The George Washington National Forest is beautiful, and we are free to enjoy it. Freedom isn’t free. Brave Americans have won our freedom with their sacrifices and lives. It takes energy to be free. We have been dependent for oil on foreign powers who are not our friends. Thanks to horizontal drilling and fracking, we now have enough energy in the United States to be free from energy tyrants.
We all need to do our part for freedom by being informed with the truth. In Virginia, the natural gas industry fracks horizontal wells on a regular basis with no water and no chemicals, only nitrogen gas. Where chemicals are used, they aren’t toxic. Check it out on www.fracfocus.org.
Oil and gas royalties are a leading source of federal non-tax revenue. We get a lot of energy from federal lands. If the new GW regulations are expanded to federal lands, they will be the beginning of the end of our dream of energy independence.
We can have both energy and beauty of national forests. Virginia Oil & Gas Association member companies are partnering with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to successfully repopulate emerging species that thrive on first-growth grasslands on reclaimed gas well sites, creating an increase in deer, wild turkeys, rabbits, birds and even butterflies. This partnership also resulted in the first successful reintroduction of a herd of elk to Virginia in more than 100 years.
The new GW Forest Plan permits windmills that kill more than half a million birds annually, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. After reclamation, a horizontal well site takes up less surface area than a single windmill.
The GW will still be beautiful in 20 years whether fracking is permitted there or not. Will future generations have the energy and freedom to enjoy it?
Kozera is a registered professional engineer with a master’s degree in environmental engineering and more than 35 years of experience in the natural gas and oil industry. He is the president of the Virginia Oil & Gas Association.