Horizontal Drilling Ban Would Limit Fracking

Responding to serious concerns raised by SELC and many others, the U.S. Forest Service has proposed prohibiting horizontal drilling on any federal lands leased in the future for oil or gas production in Virginia’s George Washington National Forest. SELC applauds this move, which is included in a draft long-range management plan for the forest released in May 2011.

The proposed ban on horizontal drilling would curb high-volume hydraulic fracturing—or “fracking”—to extract natural gas from shale deposits under the forest and would help protect streams and aquifers that provide drinking water for more than 260,000 people in and around the Shenandoah Valley.


Shaping the Forest Management Plan. The proposed horizontal drilling ban is the result of a draft environmental study conducted in conjunction with the draft revised management plan. As the Forest Service developed the draft plan over the past three years, SELC submitted several rounds of extensive recommendations for improving it, including a call to keep fracking in check. Three counties and two cities in the Shenandoah Valley—as well as many local citizens and other conservation groups—made similar requests, voicing concerns about risks to water quality, recreation, wildlife habitat, and other resources.

Risks to the Forest Remain. We are now analyzing the plan to make sure other resource-extraction techniques are not allowed to endanger sensitive natural assets. For example, the draft plan proposes to permit vertical drilling for oil and gas almost anywhere in the national forest. Vertical wells are often fracked, too, and can have adverse impacts similar to horizontal wells, although usually to a lesser degree. SELC is urging the Forest Service to conduct a more thorough study of the effects of vertical drilling before making a decision. At a minimum, the agency should prohibit gas leasing and drilling in watersheds supplying local drinking water; other priority watersheds and special biological areas identified by the Forest Service; and other places valued for their natural, scenic, and recreational treasures.

Make Your Voice Heard. The draft plan and environmental study are currently available for public comment. Comments must be submitted by September 1 via email to [email protected] or by mail to George Washington Plan Revision, George Washington & Jefferson National Forests, 5162 Valleypointe Parkway, Roanoke, VA 24019. More information and the draft documents are available on the Forest Service website.

More News

Southern Virginia highway proposal threatens recent progress

This week, SELC filed comments on behalf of itself and 16 organizations on the draft environmental impact statement for the wasteful and destruct...

Nashville mayor signs letter urging Congressional climate action

Nashville Mayor John Cooper is one of nearly 200 U.S. mayors advocating for a zero-carbon green economy that creates jobs and emphasizes equity b...

Thank you for fighting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline with us

When, on July 5th, Duke Energy and Dominion Energy abruptly cancelled the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, it didn't come out of nowhere. For years, SELC...

SELC seeks nominations for 2021 Reed Environmental Writing Award

We are now accepting submissions for the 2021 Phillip D. Reed Environmental Writing Awards. Nominations are welcome from anyone, including reader...

Lawsuit: Government illegally ‘cut corners’ to ram through NEPA changes

SELC is representing a group of 17 environmental organizations in a lawsuit filed today accusing the government of racing through an industry-fri...

Settlement provides relief for Duke Energy customers

The Southern Environmental Law Center recently reached a partial settlement with the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association and Duke Energ...

More Stories