The Dade County Commission at its regular monthly meeting on Dec. 1 acted decisively to prevent the possibility of fracking in the county. With no opposition, the commission approved and sat for the first reading of an ordinance designed to prohibit any such drilling within the county.
It also passed a resolution urging Georgia lawmakers to protect citizens from fracking at the state level.
"We need to head this off before it ever happens," said Ted Rumley, executive chairman of the county commission. "Hopefully the state of Georgia will see it, too."
Right now, he noted, there's not much legislation limiting fracking in Georgia.
Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing, a controversial process of extracting oil and gas by injecting a water mixture deep into the earth at high pressure, creating or expanding fractures in the rock. Proponents say it is a safe and economical way to get domestic oil. Opponents say its side effects include everything from poisoned drinking water to earthquakes.
In Dade, Commission Chairman Ted Rumley has repeatedly stressed an additional danger: A huge percentage of landowners do not own the mineral rights to their own property here, says Rumley, warning that their acres could be pillaged against their will by the out-of-state companies that have bought up those rights. Rumley has pushed for an anti-fracking ordinance since he heard a presentation on the issue earlier this year, and at the Thursday night meeting County Attorney Robin Rogers presented him with one.
Rogers had conferred on the ordinance with an attorney employed by an environmental group who specialized in the issue and whose services were provided to the county at no charge.
"The board of commissioners finds that hydraulic fracking in Dade County endangers the health, safety and welfare of residents, neighborhoods and the environment," reads the ordinance, in part. "Fracking fluid and fracking wastewater contain chemicals of varying toxicity, some of which are known carcinogens."
The ordinance cites possible traffic problems, noise pollution and landscape destruction as problems with fracking in addition to the potential poisoning of water supplies.
It specifically prohibits "hydraulic fracturing of any well"; storing of fracking wastewater in pits or above ground; transporting fracking fluid or wastewater on county roads; and placing machinery or equipment on land for the purpose of fracking. It goes on to assert Dade's right to impose penalties for violations.
A second reading of the ordinance, necessary for it to become law, is scheduled for the Jan. 5, 2017, meeting of the commission.
Dade's resolution to the state of Georgia points out that Dade, along with Catoosa, Chattooga, Floyd, Walker and other northwest Georgia counties sit atop the Conasauga Shale Play that geologists believe could hold 625 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
But in that regard, commented some of the commissioners in discussing the ordinance, Dade's geology puts it in less danger of being "fracked" than Walker and some of the other counties. Rumley said in any case it was safer to have rules in place to protect the county from the rapacity of oil companies. "They don't like to be told what they can do and cannot do," he opined.