Council Recap: Residents speak against ‘hydrofracking’

Alex Sirney -- May 12th, 2010

Council photo from fileCouncil heard comments from five community members during the public comment period urging council to pressure Rockingham County not to approve proposed test well drilling for natural gas in the county.

The well would access the gas using hydraulic fracturing extraction techniques, which opponents claim could contaminate groundwater tables under both Rockingham County and Harrisonburg and upset the local environment with treatment plants, increased traffic and greater strain on water sources.

Mayor Kai Degner submitted a resolution to council addressing the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors that expressed concern and asked the board to deny the requested special use permit that would allow the drilling.

Council agreed to consider the proposal further after discussions with the County at the City-County Liaison meeting this Friday. Several council members expressed their tentative support for a resolution, though during recess several expressed concerns about sending a strongly worded resolution to the county about an area outside of council’s jurisdiction.

The proposal is currently tabled by the Board of Supervisors and could be brought up at any meeting as unfinished business without being explicitly placed on the agenda. It is not expected to be brought up at Wednesday’s meeting, however.

Other notable actions:

  • Council unanimously approved the proposed budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year.
  • Council heard a proposal to create a formal Bicycle-Pedestrian Commission that would replace the existing semi-official Bicycle and Pedestrian and the Bicycle Plan Review Committees. The proposal would create a standing committee including a council member or member of the planning committee. Council asked that ways to work with the existing Transportation Safety Commission first be examined before an additional commission was created.
  • A public hearing was held addressing the property reassessment. Council was required to advertise it as an effective rate increase of .13 percent, though the property tax rate for the coming year is the same as 2009-2010 at .59 percent. Cathy White from Forbes Development asked council to lower property tax rates and operate on a lower budget and stop expanding spending. Council member Richard Baugh pointed out that the 2009-2010 budget was 13 percent lower than the previous year’s and that the proposed budget for 2010-2011 was an additional .5 percent lower than last year.

Photo by Holly Marcus.

13 Responses to “Council Recap: Residents speak against ‘hydrofracking’”

  1. Lowell Fulk says:

    Alex,
    Thank you for the great job of reporting on the Council meetings.

  2. Parent says:

    Why is this being considered? This is NOT an urban friendly business in any way. Harrisonburg is already burdened with trying to mitigate the leftover problems from old businesses (example: the milk plant premises), currently inappropriately located rural oriented businesses (animal processing plants within city limits), and facing creating a vision for a rapidly expanding urban center in the valley. To approve this business goes backwards, not forwards. They may grease enough palms to get it through, but it will be a huge mistake.

  3. Justin C says:

    If anyone is interested in the possible side effects of hydraulic fracturing, just google the following words “water from tap catches on fire”.

  4. City Citizen says:

    I commend the Mayor for taking the initiative and publicly discussing his views on this issue. If often becomes too easy for local government to follow suit in order to not ruffle any feathers.

    While I do not find any fault with the way that the county has handled the situation so far, I find it refreshing to be a part of what I feel to be an open discussion of an issue that has the possibility to be highly detrimental to our entire commmunity – both city and county.

  5. Jamie Smith says:

    Parent, you forgot the tallest building in the city, the feed mill!

  6. Bill Fawcett says:

    Parent,

    I agree. Far better that they locate in a non-urban setting, say, Bergton.

  7. Gene Hart says:

    I have no problem with “Drill, baby, drill.” As long as the drillers are willing to bet the company on an adverse outcome. Want to drill? Screw up and destroy the environment? No problem. Just pay for it all. All. Same with drilling in Bergton. Drill? Ok. Screw up the water supply? Buy all the affected land. At last tax assessed value. That I would support. Deal?

  8. David Miller says:

    Gene, I like your sentiments but once hydrofracking is introduced to a water table, it is impossible to “fix”.

    We cannot allow such methods of mining to be used, anywhere

  9. James Carter says:

    Gene

    You seem to be forgetting something. Who is it that is giving BP it’s revenue? It’s Joe Public, so regardless of the route that money takes, it’s the public who end up paying for the clean up. As the Gulf of Mexico has shown, even some of the worlds most affluent corporations struggle to control nature.

    The damage that has been caused by the more than 5 million gallons of oil that has all ready leaked is already too much and will take decades for us get close to resolving.

    If you have not already done so I strongly urge you to look into Hydrofracking and the potential damage it can cause.

    I for one am not willing to expose my children to that risk.

    Why should we be looking for gas and oil when we have an abundance of natural energy that will NEVER run out? The current energy policy is out of date and only serves the coffers of big energy.

  10. Gene Hart says:

    Dave and James, I’m not sure I was completely clear. I was trying to say we have to make sure that the TRUE economic (and environmental) costs of drilling are factored in as we address these issues. For too long the drilllers have been allowed to privatize the profits (i.e., they make them) and to socialize the risk (i.e., the public pays for the cleanups). When that changes, then let them drill. I am willing to bet wind and solar look a whole lot better when the game is not rigged.

    • David Miller says:

      Gene, I understood what you meant. I just wanted to point our that regardless of a company’s assumption of responsibility, no one can undo what damage WILL OCCUR. There is no restitution for a ruined water table. The same as there is no restitution in the Gulf for the 2000 mile oil slick. The oil will be “treated”, then sink to the bottom of the ocean. This stuff never goes away, perhaps why its buried so deeply in the first place ;)

      • David Miller says:

        And I must say that your point is totally valid, when we look at the full cost of energy then renewable are the only reasonable option.

  11. Jamie Smith says:

    There is a good article on the subject in the May 10 Wall Street Journal entitled “Shale Gas Will Rock the World.”

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