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No Sunlight on Fracking

In addition to jobs and the economy, Virginia’s future is predicated on how we meet our energy needs. Recently, several bills that impact the environment and the safety of Virginians have made their way through the House of Delegates.

HB 1679 bans the Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy from disclosing information about poisonous and potentially deadly substances that may be emitted from a fracking mine. This is done under the guise of protecting trade secrets, eliminating the ability of the public to use the Freedom of Information Act. Even the most minor problems with fracking can impact quality of life for a community — it can cause skin irritation, burns, and headaches. People in localities affected by this can be unaware of the symptoms and have no means of dealing with the source of such medical problems.

Fracking has proven to be dangerous by the EPA. A study by Yale University has shown that if the water used in fracking is inadequately treated and that water is released back into the environment, thousands of harmful chemicals can be released through the air and water.

Though the new regulations permit the disclosure of “necessary information” that cannot be gained under FIOA only in an emergency — at that point it may be too late.

Fracking poses a great risk to our environment, our health, and our communities. That is why I voted against this measure in the House, though now it has made its way to the Virginia Senate.

While we have seen legislation this session to update Virginia’s nuclear power plants and there is an ongoing fight over coal tax credits, one area where we have seen some small movement is in renewable energy, specifically solar energy.

While there is still much debate between communities, environmental groups and legislators on some of the legislation that has been proposed related to solar energy. SB 1395 allows for companies to start small renewable energy projects without going through additional hoops. SB 1393 is a step forward in switching the state to a cheaper, cleaner form of energy. This starts the process of incorporating clean energy into major industries leading us to a clean brighter future.

It will be some time before we are able to be competitive with other states’ efforts to integrate our energy portfolio to include a higher amount of renewable energy, but when we see bipartisan support for these issues, we know that together we are taking a small step in the right direction.

Charniele Herring represents Alexandria City’s 46th District in the Virginia General Assembly where she serves as House Minority Caucus chair and on the Courts of Justice and Counties, Cities, and Towns Committees. Follow Herring online at