Tell Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack: Don't frack the George Washington National Forest
George Washington National Forest is one of the crown jewels of America's national forest system on the East Coast. But that could change if the U.S. Forest Service opens hundreds of thousands of acres of the forest--including old-growth forest, endangered species' habitats and drinking water supply areas--to invasive natural gas fracking.1
Fracking, which involves injecting huge volumes of toxic chemicals underground and producing vast quantities of contaminated wastewater, has a well-documented history of poisoning water. Opening the forest to fracking could threaten the drinking water of over 4 million people in Richmond, VA, Washington, D.C., and the Shenandoah Valley whose drinking water supplies are fed by the forest.2
The Department of Agriculture, which has final approval over the Forest Service plan, has stated that it will announce a decision on whether to allow fracking in the forest next month, which gives us just a few weeks to put pressure on Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Ten local governments, the EPA, the National Park Service, and two major metropolitan water suppliers have already spoken out against fracking in the forest, but it's going to take grassroots pressure from thousands of ordinary people to overcome the fracking industry's influence in government.
Tell Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack: Don't frack the George Washington National Forest.
Fracking in the George Washington National Forest could do serious economic damage to Virginia’s significant outdoor recreation industry. More than a million people visit the forest each year, and the forest plays a significant economic role in the region. Each year, outdoor recreation in Virginia generates about $13.6 billion in consumer spending and $923 million in state and local tax revenue, and it directly supports about 138,000 Virginia jobs.3
Opening vast sections of the forest to fracking would also be an ecological disaster. Fracking requires clear-cutting trees to build well pads, access roads, pipelines and compressor stations. Each fracked gas well requires hundreds of trips by diesel trucks hauling toxic chemicals and other hazardous materials. And fracking generates toxic air pollution that would endanger communities surrounding the forest and pose unknown risks to the forest itself.
The Department of Agriculture already set a dangerous precedent last year when it caved to fracking industry pressure and opened Wayne National Forest in Ohio to fracking. As the department finalizes its decision on whether to allow fracking in the George Washington National Forest, we need to increase pressure on Secretary Vilsack to ban fracking in the forest and protect America's national forest system from this toxic industry.
1. Aaron Richardson, "Agency nears decision on fracking in George Washington National Forest," The Daily Progress, April 22, 2013
2. "Fracking in the George Washington National Forest," (PDF) Southern Environmental Law Center