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Possibility of gas drilling in Washington County, Va. has residents upset

Published On: Jun 24 2014 05:42:22 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 24 2014 05:45:18 PM CDT
WASHINGTON COUNTY, Va. -

Hydraulic fracturing is the process of extracting natural gas from under ground and it could be coming to Washington County, Va.

On Monday night, the Washington County Planning Commission passed an ordinance to establish permitting and location standards for natural gas extraction by a five to one vote.

The board of supervisors will now consider that ordinance Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m.

We talked to a group of people who live along the targeted area. The bulk of the hydrofracking would occur along Rich Valley Road, possibly all the way up to Saltville.

Residents told us they're concerned about the lasting effects of the drilling on their quality of life.

"Home is where you make it, home shouldn't be what some industry wants to come and take and redesign it to be," said Leigh Hobbs, who lives on Rich Valley Road.

Hobbs has lived there for 30 years and is opposed to hydraulic fracturing.

Hydrofracking,  as it's commonly known, is the process of drilling a hole in the ground and injecting water, laced with sand and chemicals, to open holes in the rock below. It allows natural gas to flow out of the rock.

The drilling extends vertically and then horizontally. Hobbs told us she's worried she'll still feel the effects of the drilling, even if she doesn't have a drilling well on her property.

"My neighbor that has a signed lease, when they go to drill on him, you go under and they take what they take," said Hobbs.

The neighbors are also worried about pollution.

"Water, air, noise pollution," described Christina Rehfuss, of Abrams Falls Road. "I'm very concerned about the traffic that would be on the roads with the water trucks and the safety of our kids."

The Virginia Oil and Gas Association told us hydrofracking hasn't caused groundwater contamination since drilling started in the Commonwealth.

County Planning Commissioner Bruce Dando told us they researched the risks of water pollution before approving the ordinance. He said they looked at other cases of hydrofracking across the country and found some instances of contamination, and some where no contamination occurred.

He voted to push the ordinance through to the Board of Supervisors so there could be more discussion about the risks and benefits.

Dando told us he thinks it's important to have an industry here to create jobs and revenue. Despite that, he said, they'll be listening critically to the concerns of all county residents.

There's still along way to go before the ordinance is approved, according to Dando. After the board of supervisors looks at it, there will be a public hearing and then it will go back to the planning commission for adjustments.