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Arlington, Virginia: Resolution to Prohibit Fracking in Potomac River Watershed

June 18, 2014

Arlington, Virginia water quality treatment process. Photo:

Virginia is the latest state to join the fight to protect downstream water drinkers from upstream fracking operations. Yesterday Arlington, Virginia, right across the river from Washington, D.C., weighed in powerfully when the Arlington County Board unanimously passed the “Resolution Concerning Horizontal Fracturing in the George Washington National Forest.”

The Resolution calls for horizontal fracturing to be prohibited in the forest in order to protect the Potomac River Watershed, and particularly to protect the approximately one million residents of Arlington County, the District of Columbia, the City of Falls Church, and a portion of Fairfax County, who drink Potomac River water treated by the Washington Aqueduct.

Here is the full text of the resolution as it passed yesterday. Copycat actions are welcome and encouraged.

Resolution Concerning Horizontal Fracturing in the George Washington National Forest

WHEREAS¸ the George Washington National Forest is located in the Potomac River Watershed and plays a vital role in protecting downstream water quality; and

WHEREAS¸ the Potomac River is the sole raw water source for water treated by the Washington Aqueduct Division of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, serving approximately 1 million residents of Arlington County, the District of Columbia, the City of Falls Church and a portion of Fairfax County; and

WHEREAS¸ Arlington County purchases its water from the Washington Aqueduct and distributes it to the over 210,000 residents that live in Arlington and hundreds of thousands of others who work and play in our community on a daily basis; and

WHEREAS¸ the Potomac River flows to the Chesapeake Bay, a vital estuary for which Arlington continues to invest substantial sums to protect from pollution; and

WHEREAS, the United States Forest Service is currently in the process of updating its George Washington National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan, which will direct natural resource management for the forest for the next 10 to 15 years, including the possibility of mining the Marcellus Shale by horizontal hydraulic fracturing; and

WHEREAS¸ horizontal fracturing is currently exempted from many of the requirements of the federal laws that protect our nation’s water supply, such as the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act; and

WHEREAS, at the request of the United States Congress, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is conducting a research study on the potential impact of hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas on drinking water resources; and

WHEREAS¸ numerous other stakeholders have expressed their concerns with horizontal fracturing in the George Washington National Forest, including the EPA, the National Park Service, and many of the localities in our region that depend upon the Potomac River for their water supply; and

WHEREAS, the August 2011 Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Draft Revised Land and Resource Management Plan for the George Washington National Forest, developed by the United States Forest Service, states “concern about the development of gas resources in the Marcellus shale formation led to Plan direction that horizontal drilling would not be allowed on any federal leases.  This restriction is based on concerns about the impacts of extensive hydraulic fracturing associated with horizontal drilling on water quality, the unknown potential for developing the Marcellus shale formation on the George Washington National Forest, and the limited experience with horizontal drilling in the immediate vicinity of the GWNF.”


  1. Expresses our concern about the potential impact of horizontal fracturing in the George Washington National Forest on the Potomac River Watershed, and therefore the quality of Arlington County’s water supply, and;
  2. Supports the United States Forest Service’s proposal, contained in the George Washington National Forest Draft Forest Plan and Environmental Impact Statement, to prohibit the use of horizontal fracturing in the George Washington National Forest.

Ripples of Celebration

Congratulations to the Arlington County Board. We expect to see more resolutions like this one throughout the Potomac River Watershed!

As the news spreads, water protectors already active in the hard work for clean water are celebrating. Robin Broder, a board member of Waterkeepers Chesapeake, commented:

“As a long time resident of Arlington,  I am proud that the Arlington County Board recognizes the importance of the George Washington National Forest to the protection of the headwaters of the Potomac River. As a clean water advocate,  I applaud the Board for helping the people who live downstream from the forest connect with the source of their drinking water,  the Potomac River. ”

Well Warned: Arlington, Texas

If Arlington, Virginia residents want more information about fracking we suggest they study impacts in Arlington, Texas, well documented by veteran writer Sharon Wilson:

Arlington Flowback Misery Day Four

Arlington Divided by Chesapeake Energy Fracking Site

Chesapeake Energy Sickens Arlington Residents Again

Chesapeake Vents Fracking Flowback, Putting Another Arlington Community at Risk

Sickened Arlington Residents Challenge Chesapeake Energy

A Gaping Hole in Arlington, Texas On Top of Fracking

Arlington, Texas is just one of thousands of places which now show how important preventive actions like this really are.  Thanks to the Texans for warning the Virginians… and the Pennsylvanians… and the New Yorkers… who just overwhelming passed a three-year statewide fracking moratorium! The momentum is building.





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