Cheh introduces resolution in support of a ban on Fracking in the George Washington National Forest

Resolution highlights numerous concerns about the environmental impact on the region and the contamination of the District’s drinking water

Washington, D.C. – Today, Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) introduced a Sense of the Council Resolution supporting a ban on the mining of natural gas through horizontal hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, in the George Washington National Forest. Underneath the forest lies a portion of the Marcellus Shale Geological Formation, which could be used to mine for natural gas. But, an important part of the Potomac River watershed is found in the George Washington National Forest, and the river is the sole source of water for the more than 600,000 District residents and the millions more who work in and visit the District each year.

Cheh’s resolution joins objections to fracking in the George Washington National Forest made by DC Water, the Washington Aqueduct, Fairfax County Water Authority, the U.S. EPA, the National Park Service and U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner. These objections were prompted by the U.S. Forest Service’s process of updating the George Washington National Forest Land & Resource Management Plan, which could allow fracking for natural gas for the next 10 to 15 years.

“There are serious concerns about the impact fracking in the George Washington National Forest could have on the environment and the District’s drinking water,” said Cheh. “Making the hydraulic fracturing fluid needed to effectively mine for natural gas requires drawing millions of gallons of water from the Potomac River watershed. The water used for fracking is mixed with numerous chemicals and, once used, is frequently disposed of by simply injecting it underground.”

The fracking process has been linked to significant adverse environmental effects, including the contamination of surface and drinking water. There is also the risk of an accidental release into surface or ground water through spills or leaks. Cheh believes that previous industrial accidents, which have contaminated drinking water in other jurisdictions, should serve as an indication of why the U.S. Forest Service should ban fracking.

“Only a month ago in West Virginia, we saw what can happen when industrial accidents contaminate a river used as a public water supply,” said Cheh. “The Elk River spill was caused by a one-inch leak at the bottom of a storage tank, and resulted in dangerous water, leaving nearly 300,000 residents in nine West Virginia counties without access to drinking water for five days. It would be devastating to our residents and visitors to see anything similar happen in the District, and fracking in George Washington National Forest makes that reality all too possible.”

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