Virginia recently announced a special joint review process between the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (“DMME”) and Department of Environmental Quality (“DEQ”) of applications to use hydraulic fracturing in the commonwealth’s Coastal Plain. The Coastal Plain provides about half of the freshwater used by Virginia residents, and one company has already proposed drilling in the Northern Neck area.
The joint review process, as outlined in a Memorandum of Understanding, will begin with an analysis of the potential cumulative environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing. The DMME will conduct an environmental impact assessment following any drilling permit application as it has usually done; the DEQ will review the assessment and will also have the authority to conduct its own assessment on a case-by-case basis. The DMME and DEQ will work to reach an agreement on each permit; if they are unable to do so, the Secretaries for Natural Resources and for Commerce and Trade will make the final decision.