Council of the District of Columbia votes to prohibit fracking in the George Washington National Forest

At the Washington, DC City Council meeting on March 6, 2014, all twelve lawmakers present unanimously voted to prohibit horizontal hydraulic fracturing operations in the nearby George Washington National Forest.

The 1.1 million-acre forest located in Virginia and West Virginia, with more than half lying over the Marcellus Shale geological formation, contains the headwaters of the Potomac River, which is the sole source of drinking water for the nation’s capital.

The Council’s resolution states horizontal hydraulic fracturing “has been linked to significant adverse environmental impacts, including surface and drinking water contamination.”

Citing to letters from local water officials with the Washington Aqueduct and DC Water and to comments from other near-by cities and counties expressing opposition to fracking operations in the forest, the Council resolved that “the United States Forest Service should prohibit horizontal hydraulic fracturing in the George Washington National Forest in its upcoming Revised Land and Resource Management Plan to protect water quality and supply in the Potomac River watershed.”

The Council expressed concern that any changes in source water quality would increase costs for the local citizens since the water would require additional treatment, monitoring and compliance.

The U.S. Forest Service’s revised management plan is to cover the next 10 to 15 years, and that plan may include hydraulic fracturing in the George Washington National Park.

This post was written by Barclay Nicholson ( or 713.651.3662) from Norton Rose Fulbright's Energy Practice Group.