Should fracking for natural gas be allowed in the George Washington National Forest?
Domestic oil and gas industries would cease without fracking
More than six years ago, I retired from the natural gas and oil industry. I thought I had everything planned until I began worrying about my children’s and grandchildren’s future. Without clean, affordable, dependable, domestic energy, they will have a cold, dark future. If we have to depend on foreign powers for our energy, they won’t be free. My retirement was short — one day. A friend called out of the blue with a job offer, and I was back in the industry. Now with development of our shale reservoirs, we can be energy independent and won’t need OPEC.
In the George Washington National Forest debate, a big concern is horizontal drilling and fracking (hydraulic fracturing). Few know that fracking is a single or several-day event that occurs only once in the 30-plus year life of a typical well or that fracking is an engineered process injecting fluid or a gas under pressure deep underground to create a fracture (crack) in reservoir rock. This allows oil and gas to flow from the reservoir to the wellbore.
More than 1 million wells have been fracked since 1947 and no federal government agency has confirmed any contamination from the fracturing process, although there may be cases where drilling caused short-term contamination.
Lisa Jackson, former director of the Environmental Protection Agency, agrees that there has been no proven groundwater contamination from fracking. More than 90 percent of all natural gas wells drilled in the United States require fracking. Most people don’t know that without fracking, our domestic oil and gas industry would cease to exist. Don’t worry, our “friends” at OPEC or in Russia will gladly sell us oil and gas at their prices.
We know from basic engineering and underground observations that fracks cannot go up into groundwater. This isn’t theory or a study. I lived with my family in the middle of oil and gas fields where all of the wells were fracked. Our water well was fine. We never saw any of those dangerous fracking things that we now hear and read about. Our kids are all healthy. The most dangerous threat to our water is a neighbor’s unregulated water well.
The George Washington can be a great Eastern wilderness without development of any kind. It also can continue to be the beautiful multiuse forest it currently is. Regulations can protect roads and sensitive areas.
With the forest’s location on the edge of the Marcellus Shale, it will probably never be drilled. But should we take that option away from our children? Any forest plan must be based on sound science and engineering rather than fear and fallacy. We need energy to survive. Life without fracking is life without the fundamentals of life. Don’t we want the best for our children and grandchildren?
For more information, go to vanatgasfacts.org or justthefracksbook.com.
Kozera is a registered professional engineer with a masters 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.
Virginians must continue to safeguard the national forests
Since they were established 95 years ago, the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests have provided a beautiful backdrop and a beloved back yard for the Roanoke Valley region. Now the GW, the largest national forest east of the Mississippi, faces an unprecedented threat as the federal government considers opening it up to natural gas drilling.
The treasured GW helps support Virginia’s multimillion-dollar tourism and outdoor recreation industry, as more than 1 million people annually come from around the country — and from next door — to hike its picturesque vistas, fish trout streams in the headwaters of the James River, bike winding trails, and hunt and camp in favorite family spots.
It’s hard to imagine a less suitable place for industrial gas drilling and fracking.
Shale gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) involve pumping millions of gallons of water, usually mixed with known toxic chemicals, deep underground to crack open shale rock containing natural gas. Reports of gas leaks and wastewater polluting drinking water wells, rivers and streams elsewhere in the country raise red flags about the risks.
Although the industry often disputes these risks, there can be little debate that drilling and fracking in the GW would have awful impacts on the land. This is a major industrial activity, requiring clear-cutting and bulldozing to build well pads and potentially hundreds of miles of access roads with heavy truck traffic and pipelines, carving up the national forest and disrupting adjacent farms and forestlands. Contrast this image with the undisturbed nature the GW now provides, which greatly enriches this region’s quality of life
Two years ago in response to widespread concerns about fracking possibly coming to the GW, the U.S. Forest Service sensibly proposed to prohibit horizontal gas drilling on the national forest for the next 10 to 15 years, which would limit the riskiest and most destructive form of fracking. More than 50,000 people (95 percent of those who commented) and 10 local governments surrounding the forest, including the city of Roanoke, asked for a ban or moratorium on horizontal drilling or fracking in the GW. But the gas industry and other drilling proponents pressured the Forest Service to reconsider the proposal. A final decision is expected this fall.
Large-scale gas drilling has never taken place in the GW. For decades, the Forest Service and locals have taken care of the national forest so it continues to supply clean water and timber, supports healthy fish and wildlife populations, and provides beautiful places to hunt, fish and enjoy the outdoors.
We have a long-standing heritage in Virginia of appreciating and safeguarding our national forests. Let’s not abandon that now with the GW at stake. Read more at ProtectTheGW.org.
Francisco is National Forests and Parks Program Leader for the Southern Environmental Law Center.