Wind And Gas Well Drilling Part Of George Washington National Forest Plan
Hot Springs, VA – Public comment is now being accepted on the revision of the George Washington National Forest plan. The National Forest covers 51% of Bath County and wind energy development and gas leasing and drilling are just two topics that the plan addresses. Ken Landgraf is the Planning Staff Officer for the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.
“There are areas available for both wind energy development and that would be available for gas leasing using the traditional techniques of drilling which is generally a vertical bore; but none of Bath County would be available for horizontal drilling” says Landgraf.
The forest plan revision has classified some areas of Bath County as unsuitable for wind energy development. But wind energy could be considered for Alleghany Mountain along the West Virginia line, Walker Mountain, Little Mountain and part of Back Creek Mountain.
Here in the Appalachian region, deposits of natural gas can be found underground in Marcellus shale. Drilling to reach that gas can be done vertically or at an angle, called horizontal drilling. With drilling, hydraulic fracturing can increase the flow of gas. Hydraulic fracturing is the pumping of liquid under high pressure down into the rock to fracture it. The liquid used is a mixture of water and chemicals and there are concerns about its use harming water sources.
“We’re making the decision on which lands on the George Washington would be available administratively for lease” says Landgraf. “The Bureau of Land Management that actually issues leases, we’ve heard a lot of concern about development of the Marcellus Shale formation. It is usually done with horizontal drilling and conjunction with that is a large amount of hydrofracking that goes with it. We’ve heard from a number of groups and a lot of people who had concerns about potential effects on water quality from that process. While we did make areas available for leasing, we do have a prohibition on the use of horizontal drilling.”
You can learn more and provide feedback on the forest plan revision on Wednesday, July 27th. A public workshop is scheduled at Valley Elementary School from 6:30 until 9pm.
“There are some people who have concerns about even the vertical drilling and potential impacts on water quality” says Landgraf. “We’ve experienced a lot of drilling on the Jefferson National Forest in far southwest Virginia; and there there’s been quite a bit of conventional drilling on national forest land. Along with that is limited hydrofracking, and we’ve not experienced any problems with it down there, so we did make land available for that kind of drilling. We don’t expect there would be any impacts on water quality from that.”
If you can’t make it to the workshop, you can still review the draft plan and submit your comments. Call the US Forest Service office in Bath County at 540-839-2521 for more information.