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Letter to Secretary Vilsack on G.W. Forest Fracking

March 4, 2014

The Honorable Thomas J. Vilsack

U.S. Department of Agriculture

1400 Independence Ave. SW

Washington, DC 20250-0002

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

As a former Virginia Lieutenant Governor and current congressional candidate in Virginia’s 8th District, I write to add my name to the long list of citizens, elected officials, agencies and local governments opposed to horizontal drilling in the George Washington National Forest.  While natural gas is critical to our energy supply and an important transition fuel, there is insufficient data on the safety or side effects of horizontal drilling to move forward today.

The potential degradation of the Potomac River water quality, essential to millions of households throughout the region, is too great a risk.  Among the hundreds of public comments opposing fracking, I give great deference especially to the views of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority, and the Fairfax County Water Authority, each of which raises serious environmental and public health concerns.

The Forest Service’s own 2011 draft management plan summarized well the case for a moratorium:

Horizontal drilling and the associated hydrofracturing of the Marcellus shale formation may impact water quality. Given the questionable nature of the development potential on the Forest, along with the high level of concern for water quality, the Plan does not allow horizontal drilling. Should production in nearby areas demonstrate that the gas is developable and it can be done without impact to water quality, the Forest could reconsider the issue in the future.

Given the risk, insufficient data and potentially inadequate regulatory structure, I urge you to prohibit horizontal drilling in the George Washington National Forest until there is more thorough information on water contamination and a rigorous enforcement mechanism in place.

Sincerely,

Donald S. Beyer, Jr.