Richmond Times-Dispatch Likes Fracking -- But Not In Virginia


Source: Julia Schmalz via BloombergThe Richmond Times-Dispatch published an editorial dismissing the alleged "fear and disinformation" surrounding hydraulic fracturing to claim it is "not so toxic," but admitted the process is not safe enough for Virginia.

The September 11 editorial attacked opponents of hydraulic fracturing -- also known as fracking - claiming that they "have waged a campaign of fear and disinformation" about the process, which is "not so toxic as its foes make it out to be."

But the Times-Dispatch quickly pivoted to denounce fracking in Virginia's George Washington National Forest, which provides drinking water to millions of people. As the editorial explains, it's still a process "that uses strong chemicals and relies on heavy machinery," which is "a lot to introduce to a largely pristine landscape":

The U.S. Forest Service is completing a 15-year management plan and soon will decide whether to permit fracking in George Washington. While fracking is not so toxic as its foes make it out to be, it remains an industrial process -- one that uses strong chemicals and relies on heavy machinery. That is a lot to introduce to a largely pristine landscape.

Granted, the federal government owns far too much real estate -- particularly out west. Public lands should not be categorically sealed off from private use. The George Washington Natural Forest, however, is not just any old lump of real estate. It is a treasure that merits close guarding.

The Times-Dispatch's NIMBYism is clearly concerning. It is understandable that the editorial board would not want to contaminate the drinking water and decimate the beauty of Virginia's natural landscape, but it is unclear why it is willing to tolerate such damage in another state. The Times-Dispatch's reasoning that public lands should be targeted because "the federal government owns too much real estate - particularly out west" is misleading, as approximately 3,400 wells, or about 90 percent of those drilled on Federal and Indian lands, are already "stimulated using hydraulic fracturing techniques."

Additionally, as the Times-Dispatch acknowledges, natural gas is less CO2-intensive than coal. However, ramping up production would still not result in significant emissions reductions in the absence of comprehensive climate policy and ramped-up renewable energy. In fact, a report by Resources for the Future and the National Energy Policy Institute explained that cheaper, more abundant natural gas without complementary policy changes would "boost overall energy consumption and reduce the use of nuclear and renewable energy sources for electric power generation" resulting in almost 1 percent higher projected CO2 emissions. As the Natural Resources Defense Council has noted, climate change figures to bring a raft of new problems to Virginia.

Posted In
Environment & Science, Energy
Richmond Times-Dispatch
State Media
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