As of mid-October 2014, here’s an overview of recent developments regarding the extraction or transport of natural gas in Virginia.
DRILLING: The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) is continuing its process of reviewing the Commonwealth’s regulations on the hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling methods of extracting gas and oil from shales and other geologic formations. September 24, 2014, was the date of the fifth and most recent (as of 10/15/14) meeting (the first was in June 2014) of a Regulatory Advisory Board assembled to help DMME review and make recommendations about current regulations; information about that panel is available at this link: http://www.dmme.virginia.gov/DGO/RegulatoryAction.shtml. DMME online information about the proposed regulation is available from Virginia Regulatory Town Hall at http://townhall.virginia.gov/L/ViewStage.cfm?stageid=6829; see particularly the “Agency Statement” link, which takes you to the 12/4/13 Notice of Intended Regulatory Action (NOIRA) describing the proposed action’s purpose, issues, and legal basis. In that online information, the DMME states that “hydraulic fracturing has been used safely in Virginia since the 1960s, [but that] DMME believes expanding disclosure of ingredients used in well stimulation and completion is an appropriate and necessary safeguard for the citizens of the Commonwealth. There is also a need to ensure that the regulation appropriately reflects current industry best practices, as the use of technology such as horizontal drilling has expanded considerably in recent years.”
As of mid-2014, natural-gas extraction in Virginia occurs only in the southwestern coalfields region. But in 2010 to 2012, a gas-drilling operation was proposed in an area of Rockingham County that overlies the large Marcellus shale formation, the source of greatly expanded gas-drilling operations in recent years in the mid-Atlantic region, particularly in Pennsylvania and West Virginia; that proposal did not receive necessary local permits. (For a compilation of news stories and information resources since 2011 on natural gas activities in the Marcellus shale region, please see the Water Central News Grouper items at this link: http://vawatercentralnewsgrouper.wordpress.com/category/marcellus/.) Then, in 2013-14, Shore Oil and Exploration Corporation has acquired gas-drilling leases in five counties on Virginia’s Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula that overlie the Taylorsville basin formation. And the U.S. Forest Service has been considering how to address natural-gas drilling in the current revision of the strategic plan for the George Washington National Forest, which covers a large area of western Virginia (information on the planning process for the GW National Forest is available online at http://www.fs.usda.gov/land/gwj/landmanagement).
PIPELINES FOR GAS TRANSPORT: Also in 2014, transport of natural gas through the Commonwealth has become a high-profile and controversial issue. EQT Corporation of Pennsylvania and NextEra Energy of Florida have proposed the “Mountain Valley Pipeline” from West Virginia to Pittsylvania County (exact route still being determined and subject to much public reaction and comment); Dominion Resources and several partners are proposing the Atlantic Coast gas pipeline from West Virginia through central Virginia to North Carolina; and Spectra Energy of Houston had been evaluating a proposal for a pipeline from Pennsylvania through central Virginia to North Carolina, but in August 2014 the company confirmed that it has suspended work on that proposal for now. The EQT and Dominion, et al., proposals have received support from Va. Gov. Terry McCauliffe, but they are the subject of widespread public reaction, concern, and comment regarding their route and their connection to hydraulic fracturing and fossil-fuel use in general.
Sources for this post: Governor McAuliffe, Dominion CEO Tom Farrell and Virginia Natural Gas Chairman Hank Linginfelter to Announce Economic Impacts of Atlantic Coast Pipeline for Virginia, 9/2/14. Natural gas pipeline plan riles Floyd County, Roanoke Times, 8/14/14. Large crowd on hand for Nelson pipeline meeting; Spectra project on hold, Charlottesville Daily Progress, 8/12/14. Panel to review Virginia oil and gas regulations, Bay Journal, 6/3/14. With natural gas drilling possibly shifting to eastern Va., state looks anew at regulations, Associated Press, as published by Greenfield [Indiana] Daily Reporter, 5/31/14.
Additional news stories about natural-gas drilling or transport in Virginia, since December 2013 (from most recent to oldest; all hyperlinks were functional as of the date(s) they were added to this post, but they may not be at later times).
Pipeline opponents launch monitoring project [plan by Alleghany-Blue Ridge Alliance of groups in Virginia and West Virginia, for monitoring construction of proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, if it ultimately goes forward], Waynesboro News Virginian, 10/22/14.
Franklin County residents grill company officials about pipeline project [at 10/21/14 public meeting in Rocky Mount], Roanoke Times, 10/21/14.
Montgomery County supervisors comment on pipeline after hearing from large crowd, Roanoke Times, 10/15/14.
Petition drive against pipeline to go to McAuliffe, Waynesboro News-Virginian, 10/14/14 [petition drive by Augusta County, Va., Alliance].
Landowners state their case on fracking, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 10/11/14 [interviews with landowners—one each in Caroline, Essex, King George, King and Queen and Westmoreland counties in Virginia—who have agreed to lease property for natural gas wells].
New route for [Mountain Valley] gas pipeline avoids Floyd County, passes through Roanoke County, Roanoke Times, 10/7/14.
Partner in Mountain Valley Pipeline faces criminal charges in Pa., Roanoke Times, 10/6/14.
Opinion: Virginia must carefully consider fracking issues, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/2/14 [Virginia chapter of Sierra Club is advocating that Virginia not issue any new gas-drilling permits “until a Virginia-specific study has been completed and strong regulations addressing risks have been put in place”].
McAuliffe defends pipeline support at climate-change meeting, Washington Post, 9/10/14.
Anti-pipeline groups form coalition, Waynesboro News-Virginian, 9/11/14 [22 groups join to form Alleghany-Blue Ridge Alliance in opposition to Atlantic Coast Pipeline project].
Washington County supervisors vote 6-1 to allow natural gas drilling, Bristol Herald-Courier, 9/10/14.
Fracking takes center stage with panel at Rappahannock Community College in Warsaw, Northern Neck News, 9/4/14 [very detailed version of forum on natural gas].
Pipeline: pro and con, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 9/2/14 [Responses to Va. Gov. Terry McCauliffe’s announcement about Atlantic Coast Pipeline].
Natural gas pipeline plan riles Floyd County, Roanoke Times, 8/14/14.
Drilling company official says no rush on fracking [King George County, Va.]; Regional fracking discussion set Sep. 3 [at Rappahannock Community College in Warsaw, Va.], Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 8/9/14.
Drilling, fracking controversial for Va., Hampton Roads [Virginia Conservation Network public meeting on hydraulic fracturing in Virginia Beach], Daily Press, 7/30/14.
Webinar will detail fracking in Virginia [held online July 9, 2014, by Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, sponsored by Virginia Master Naturalist program], Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 7/7/14.
Fracking pros, cons debated, [at town-hall meeting, attended by some 160 people, at in King George County, Va., on 6/12/14. Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 6/13/14.
Advisory panel on fracking calls for full disclosure on chemicals, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 6/4/14.
Fracking workshop includes DEQ and DMME [workshop held 5/8/14 by VACO in Hanover County, Va.], Westmoreland News, 5/12/14
Local citizens tackle issue of fracking, Northern Neck News, 5/7/14.
Oil and gas leases in bay region spark debate, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4/19/14.
State is revising drilling guidelines, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 3/21/14.
Potomac Watershed Roundtable Considers Fracking in the Taylorsville Basin, Bay Journal, 4/8/14.
Fracking worries arise at conservation forum in city, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 3/17/14.
Land trust may change policy on gas drilling, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 3/13/14.
“A lot of fear” about fracking, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 3/9/14.
Local officials dig into fracking, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 3/8/14.
Virginia tidewater fracking bill modified to increase oversight of fracking, but stops short of ban; SB 48 has moved from committee to full state senate with significant modifications, Bay Journal, 2/4/14.
Fracking in George Washington National Forest could threaten D.C. area drinking water, Washington Post, 2/1/14.
Proposed fracking in Virginia meets broad opposition, Associated Press, as published in Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/27/14.
[King George County] to study up on fracking issue, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 1/20/14.
Fracking prompts water worries, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 1/10/14.
Fracking impact weighed in area, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 12/12/13.