Alexandria, V.A.— As the U.S. Forest Service prepares to announce whether or not to open up the George Washington National Forest to the dirty drilling practice known as fracking, a new report from Environment Virginia Research and Policy Center calculates the toll of this dirty drilling on our environment across the country.
The report, Fracking by the Numbers, is the first study of its kind to measure the footprint of fracking to date—including toxic wastewater, water use, chemical use, air pollution and land damage.
“The numbers don't lie—fracking has already taken a dirty and destructive toll on our environment in other parts of the country. The George Washington, a favorite destination among Virginians to hike, camp and fish, is too precious a place to risk the scale and scope of pollution that comes with this dirty drilling practice,” said Sarah Bucci, Environment Virginia campaign director.
Of particular concern is the potential destruction to the Shenandoah Valley’s scenic, rural landscapes. The report shows nationally over 360,000 acres of land has been damaged since 2005 due to fracking. This number includes land cleared for roads, well sites, pipelines and other related infrastructure needed for an industrial process like fracking, but likely undersells the true total amount of land affected.
“Every year, $13.6 billion is spent on outdoor recreation in Virginia, supporting 138,200 Virginia jobs, generating $3.9 billion in wages and producing nearly $1 billion in tax revenue,” said Gregory Miller, president of American Hiking Society. “The George Washington, Shenandoah Valley and Potomac recreation corridor provide spectacular outdoor recreation opportunities. Fracking is shortsighted and would permanently impair the natural and cultural heritage and beauty of Virginia for current and future generations.”
Fracking also involves heavy water withdrawal, the use of toxic chemicals in fracking fluid and the need to dispose of billions of gallons of wastewater, all of which could affect the watersheds within the George Washington. The report found that, in 2012 alone, fracking generated 280 billion gallons of toxic wastewater.
“The George Washington National Forest is just a short drive from our nation’s capital. This pristine forest protects the headwaters of the Potomac River which provides drinking water for more than 5 million people,” said Robin Broder, vice president of Potomac Riverkeeper. “It makes no sense to let the fracking industry endanger the health of my family and millions of other people.”
More than 95 percent of the 53,000 public comments received by the Forest Service in response to the proposed draft forest management plan for the George Washington National Forest supported a proposed ban on fracking. Ten local governments—from Rockingham County to Roanoke—have either passed resolutions or written letters supporting limits on fracking in the George Washington.
“The data from today’s report shows that fracking is taking a dirty and destructive toll on our environment and health,” said Bucci. “Environment Virginia is urging the U.S. Forest Service to deliver a final management plan that protects this special place and the drinking water for millions of Virginians by keeping fracking out of the George Washington National Forest.”