US to Limit Energy Development in George Washington Forest in Virginia

us-forest-serviceDaily Journal

WASHINGTON — Oil and gas development will be limited in the George Washington National Forest in Virginia, the U.S. Forest Service said Tuesday in a long-awaited decision over an area that’s home to the headwaters of rivers that provide drinking water for the 4 million people in the Washington, D.C., metro area.

The million-acre national forest in western Virginia sits on the eastern edge of the Marcellus shale formation, whose vast deposits of natural gas have touched off a drilling bonanza in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Energy companies have tapped the Marcellus gas through high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which entails blasting rock formations with water mixed with sand and chemicals to unlock oil and gas deposits.

The oil industry says any natural gas could be extracted with little damage to the national forest and its waters. But the possibility of fracking has drawn broad opposition from the counties around the forest and the capital area, including members of Virginia’s congressional delegation and Washington’s mayor.

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