On May 8, 2015, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring issued a formal opinion that the Virginia Code allows localities to use land-use or zoning ordinances to prohibit hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” for natural gas. The process injects large amounts of water, containing various chemicals, into underground gas- or oil-bearing formations in order to break out the gas or oil.
Mr. Herring’s opinion contrasted with an opinion issued in 2013 by then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Mr. Herring issued his opinion in response to a request from Virginia State Senator Richard Stuart of Stafford County. The opinion comes amid widespread debate in Virginia over current proposals to build pipelines that would transport gas produced by fracking, and over recent activity in eastern Virginia to purchase leases for fracking operations. The opinion is available online (as PDF) at http://www.oag.state.va.us/files/14-084_Stuart.pdf.
King George officials debate a fracking ban after attorney general’s ruling, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 5/24/15; and Attorney General: Localities can ban fracking, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 5/9/15.
For more on the current scrutiny in Virginia over natural gas, please see this ongoing Grouper post: Potential Natural Gas Drilling and Transport in Virginia under Close Scrutiny in 2014-15.
Much more information on hydraulic fracturing is available in the series of Grouper posts available at this link: https://vawatercentralnewsgrouper.wordpress.com/?s=Hydraulic+Fracturing.