Fracking in the Southeast

Threat to Clean Water: Fracking operations have been linked to polluted rivers, streams, and contaminated well water.


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SELC Takes on Hydraulic Fracturing for Natural Gas

Gas development using hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), which entails injecting huge quantities of water and chemicals into the ground, has the potential to radically transform the Southeast. While SELC supports cleaner alternative energy sources that will help move our region away from coal, we strongly object to the destructive ways natural gas is now being extracted—and to the lack of environmental oversight.

As pressure mounts to tap into southeastern shale deposits, SELC is working on multiple fronts in our six states to prevent fracking in special natural areas like our national forests, and to keep or put tough regulatory safeguards in place. 

North Carolina  

SELC continues to raise awareness of the North Carolina legislature’s efforts to remove drilling and fracking protections. In recent years, the legislature has lifted a moratorium on fracking before new regulations were in place, passed a law to prevent local oversight of gas drilling, and made it a crime to disclose the chemicals used in the fracking process. SELC is challenging the constitutionality of North Carolina’s Mining and Energy Commission and has secured an injunction that suspends, for now, the permitting of natural gas extraction in the state, creating a de facto moratorium on fracking in North Carolina. 


One of our highest priorities in Virginia has been to keep fracking out of the George Washington National Forest. As a result of a multi-year effort led by SELC and the Shenandoah Valley Network, with support from a broad group of allies, in late 2014 the U.S. Forest Service announced it would place nearly all of the 1.1 million-acre George Washington National Forest off-limits to shale gas drilling and fracking. This decision protects the many existing uses and values of this special forest.

SELC and our local partners are also championing strong local standards and oversight of drilling in eastern Virginia’s Taylorsville Basin, where a company has obtained gas and oil leases on more than 85,000 acres just miles from the Chesapeake Bay. With years of help and support from SELC and partners, several Tidewater counties have now amended their zoning ordinances to significantly restrict or prohibit drilling and fracking in their communities. 

With our partners, SELC also advocates strong regulation by the Commonwealth of gas drilling and fracking. Since helping secure important new protections like public disclosure of fracking chemicals in 2016, we work to defend these important protections from legislative attacks in the General Assembly.


Tennessee’s environmental agency has established oil and gas drilling regulations, but they do not go nearly far enough to protect water and wildlife. SELC’s continues to advocate for full disclosure of the chemicals and fracking fluids drilling companies will use, which is not required under federal law. 


In the face of local opposition and legal pressure from SELC and partners, including Wild South and NRDC, a plan to lease over 40,000 acres in the Talladega National Forest was withdrawn. Learn more: Watch "Between the Fracks," a short documentary video about fracking in the Talladega.

We are also carefully monitoring the Bankhead National Forest in northwest Alabama for renewed interest in fracking development. 


Since 2013, natural gas exploration and extraction companies have increasingly approached property owners in northwest Georgia seeking to purchase mineral rights in hopes of tapping into the Conasauga Shale Field that underlies much of the area. Residents and local officials are turning to SELC to provide information on applicable federal and state laws, policies, technology, and potential impacts, with the goal of helping the community make informed decisions about whether and how to limit or regulate fracking.