Environmental group will seek local action

A new chapter of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League held its first meeting in Front Royal this week.

The new Earth Allies chapter aims to submit local ordinances or bans against fracking in the area. Maya White Sparks, who helped organize the chapter and meeting, said those in attendance Tuesday had fracking on the top of their list of environmental concerns.

“Everyone there has concerns; they care about what happens to the Earth and the water and the air,” she said.

Sparks and some others in attendance had marched last summer in protest of Dominion’s plans for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Many of those participants were part of Women’s Alliance for Environmental Justice and Renewal. While Sparks said she was familiar with some in attendance at the meeting, there were also a few new faces.

The meeting featured a presentation from Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League community organizer Sharon Ponton, who could not attend. Her presentation contained information about the fracking process and its impacts.

Plans for the Dominion pipeline cross through parts of the George Washington National Forest, which extends up into Frederick, Shenandoah and Warren counties. While Sparks said that she doesn’t know of any fracking plans in the northern end of the forest, the group has concerns for the area as a whole.

“Fracking is all over this country and it’s very close in West Virginia, so we feel it is coming,” she said. “It’s like we’re surrounded, and we don’t want it to come into Virginia.”

Sparks said the defense league has found success in passing local moratoriums in North Carolina. She said the new Earth Allies chapter aims to educate the community and research the process of submitting similar local ordinances. She said that three working groups had already formed for Warren, Frederick and Clarke counties.

The Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts’ policy book states that it supports postponing fracking permits for further research and regulations. Sparks said some chapter members will be sitting in on a Lord Fairfax district meeting to learn more about the district’s position.

“Everyone is aware that the Shenandoah Valley is already polluted and we want to be proactive and prevent it getting even worse,” she said. “If we allow more fracking to come in, that undermines that goal.”

The Earth Allies chapter will hold another meeting on April 20, and Sparks said it will also be open to the public.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com