The statewide campaigns for office have generally not had to address energy development in the commonwealth, aside from the usual bromides about either “all of the above” or “sustainable.” That could change very soon, as this story from Saturday’s Daily Progress makes abundantly clear:
The U.S. Forest Service is expected in June to end two years of wrangling over whether to ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the George Washington National Forest.
Debate has raged about the issue since 2011, when the service initially proposed a 15-year moratorium on fracking in the swath of largely undeveloped wilderness stretching down the spines of the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains in western Virginia.
Environmental groups say fracking risks water contamination and would threaten trees in the 1.1 million-acre forest. Opponents of the ban say domestic drilling promotes energy independence and provides jobs. Between the two poles sits the forest service.
Yes, Virginia, fracking could be in your future. For folks like me, who see the economic benefits such exploration could bring, it’s a very good thing.
But aside from a smattering of online petitions to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging him to keep the ban on gas drilling in place (what is it with Virginia and energy bans?), the issue has yet to make its way into the statewide political races.
Perhaps Virginia’s Democratic candidates should feel relieved it hasn’t. They need only look at the civil war brewing between California environmentalists who oppose fracking in the state with Democratic politicians who see the jobs and tax revenues such development could bring. Or they could cast their gaze on New York, which “…has become ground zero for protests by anti-fracking activists, including celebrities like Yoko Ono.”
Imagine Yoko in Buffalo Gap. The mind boggles…
But with the Forest Service’s decision coming in June — the same month as the Democratic primary — and that it appears the drilling ban will be lifted, we are left to wonder what sort of effect it might have on the campaigns.
Will the Democrats be mau-maued by the environmental left into opposing fracking before the June deadline? Will Republicans seize the issue like they have with coal (nevermind uranium)?
Suddenly, there’s a sleeper issue in Virginia’s political midst. And how the candidates react will tell us a great deal about whether they genuinely care about advancing the state’s economy and our nation’s energy independence, or prefer that you to live what remains of your life shivering in the dark.