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George Washington National Forest Awaits Fracking Decision

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The National Forest Service will have to decide whether to allow fracking in the George Washington National Forest.
John Iwanski: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usachicago/3830456401/
The National Forest Service will have to decide whether to allow fracking in the George Washington National Forest.

Next month, the federal government is expected to announce whether it will allow fracking, an intensive form of drilling for natural gas, in the George Washington National Forest, a popular area for hiking, hunting and fishing.

The GW is a million-acre preserve of mountain streams and trees that provide habitat for bears and deer, rare salamanders and native trout. It's also the source of drinking water for four and a half million people in southern Virginia.

"The GW is the headwaters for the Potomac River, and it s also the headwaters of the James River, which flows to Richmond," says Kate Wofford, who heads a group called the Shenandoah Valley Network.

In states where fracking is already underway, there are stories of streams and rivers being polluted with chemical waste from the fracking process, and the EPA is still investigating how much of a threat it poses to groundwater.

Greg Kozera, president of the Virginia Oil and Gas Association, says fracking can be done safely, and the natural gas boom has been good for consumers.

"My 90-year-old mother saved almost $1,000 on her gas bill last year," Kozera says. "Now for some folks, maybe that s not a big deal, but if you re on a fixed income, $1,000 is a lot of money!"

He also touts the jobs created by an expanding industry. So does Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who received $75,000 in campaign contributions from energy companies. The Republican candidate for governor thinks the National Forest Service should let Virginia decide whether to allow fracking in the forest.

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