News | May 11, 2015

VA Attorney General Herring supports local oversight of fracking

Local control over shale gas extraction was confirmed in an opinion issued Friday by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring that overruled the opinion of his predecessor. SELC played a role in urging the attorney general to review and reconsider the previous opinion, which had concluded that localities could not prohibit fracking.

The Attorney General’s opinion, which provides a formal interpretation of existing law but does not create or change the law, now says that localities can use zoning ordinances to completely prohibit fracking or to place restrictions on drilling activities. This opinion is especially relevant for the communities in the Chesapeake Bay Region where recent interest in drilling has prompted questions about how best to protect the region’s rivers, water supplies, and rural character.  With confirmation from the attorney general of a community's right to make decisions on fracking that best protect and benefit itself, Virginia localities now have assurance that they can safeguard their environmental and community resources from harmful drilling practices.