The six members of the Colonial Beach Town Council in attendance at the early Saturday morning work session voted to oppose hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in Westmoreland County. Council member, Steve Cirbee, was absent due to illness.
Resolution 13-17, “Opposing Hydraulic Fracturing” was passed urging the Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors to “protect Westmoreland County from the negative effects of hydraulic fracturing” by enacting a total ban on fracking within the county.
In doing so this would protect the town from any fracking within town limits as well. King George County voted to disallow fracking within 750 feet of a water source. This leaves only 9% of the county able to be drilled upon during the process.
Several companies involved in hydraulic fracturing threatened the county with law suits over the issue, but as of yet none have come to fruition. Ruby Brabos, KG county supervisor, spoke to officials in Garfield County, Colorado who have been dealing with fracking for more than 16 years. They all urged the county to go forward with the regulations.
In February numerous Colonial Beach residents joined with others from the county to protest the possibility of fracking in Westmoreland. As the area is part of the Taylorsville basin the chemicals used in fracking could cause an issue were they to escape into the water supply.
Petroleum companies argue that they hydraulic fracturing is not dangerous to the environment or localities. However, the state of Oklahoma, which allows fracking, is dealing with numerous issues including an enormous upswing in earthquakes.
Since 2008, when fracking ramped up in the state, the number of 3.0, or above, magnitude rose from 2 to 889 in 2015. As of November 7, 2016, 572 had been recorded.
As hydraulic fracturing actually fractures the bedrock and sends high speed water through the same it is likely the cause of the increase. The board of supervisors in Westmoreland County meets tonight to discuss this issue further in-depth.
Mayor Eddie Blunt was set to take the town’s position to the board of supervisors meeting just press time.
Not only are the possibility of earthquakes an issue, but also the chance of chemicals used in fracking entering the water system. As the fracking industry fought this year to be allowed to hide the chemicals used while drilling in the state many localities spoke out against this.
House bill 1678 would have allowed the companies to keep “trade secrets” and not disclose the chemicals used in the operations. The bill passed at the House of Delegates level, but failed in the state Senate.
Opponents of the bill stated that doing this would make it even harder for localities to test for chemicals infiltrating the water table as they would not know what chemicals to test for.
The next town council meeting is at the new time of 6:00 p.m. Tonight. The next work session is set for Friday the 24th from 6-8 p.m.
Suzy Pietras-Smith is a Westmoreland News correspondent.