Virginia AG Says Localities Can “Regulate” & “Prohibit” Fracking

Apparently Virginia’s Attorney General, Mark Herring, believes every county and town in the Old Dominion is populated with oil and gas experts. How else could he issue an advisory opinion that, in his opinion, every municipality in the state has the authority to regulate and/or prohibit fracking within its jurisdiction? Every other oil and gas producing state, save a bad decision made by New York’s highest court, says oil and gas regulation is solely under the purview of the state–and for good reason. The state employs oil and gas experts who know what they’re doing–what’s safe and what isn’t. How the process works. What pollutes and what doesn’t pollute. But AG Herring has thrown that out the window in Virginia…

Localities can prohibit or regulate a drilling process called hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas, Virginia’s attorney general wrote in an advisory opinion.

Attorney General Mark R. Herring issued the nonbinding opinion at the request of Sen. Richard H. Stuart, whose 28th District includes the natural gas rich Taylorsville Basin.

A Dallas energy company has leased tens of thousands of acres south and east of Fredericksburg with the intention of drilling for the estimated 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas embedded within the basin’s shale formations.

As the leasing has occurred, some localities have wondered how much say they have over fracking.

Although the opinion does not change law, “it gives local governments reassurance that they have legal authority to enact zoning laws that put limits on drilling operations to protect their communities and natural resources,” Greg Buppert, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said in a release Friday.

He said the opinion “is grounded in a careful analysis of Virginia law.”*

We’d say Herring’s opinion is grounded in horse manure–with no analysis of Virginia law.

Here’s the tipoff that Herring didn’t do his homework and is just another knee-jerk reactionary Democrat playing to his left/fringe base of voters:

In his opinion, dated May 5, Herring cites the “potential dangers” of fracking, such as its impact on groundwater supplies, air pollution and truck traffic.

Herring wrote, “It is my opinion that the General Assembly intended to permit localities to prohibit fracking operations through duly enacted land use or zoning ordinances, and the code of Virginia so provides.”

Herring added that localities can restrict fracking provided they “are reasonable in scope and are not inconsistent” with existing state law.*

We have no argument with common sense trucking ordinances, noise ordinances and the like. But outright “regulation” and “prohibition”? No way. We’re confident that’s NOT what Virginia legislators had in mind and we expect the industry will litigate to prove otherwise.

AP/Norfolk (VA) The Virginian-Pilot (May 8, 2015) – Herring says Va. localities have say over fracking

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