Herring said he believes the General Assembly and the Code of Virginia “permit localities to prohibit fracking operations through duly enacted land use or zoning ordinances.”
Herring issued the formal opinion Friday afternoon. He also spelled out details in a letter Tuesday to Sen. Richard Stuart, R-Stafford, who had asked for Herring’s opinion.
In the letter, Herring mentioned several times that counties have the authority, through power given them by the state, to “pass zoning ordinances prohibiting fracking.”
He also said that, in an absence of a prohibition, counties can restrict fracking through reasonable zoning ordinances that do not conflict with state statutes or regulations.
Herring’s opinion is in direct contrast to one issued by state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in January 2013. Cuccinelli said local governing bodies could place reasonable restrictions on the location and siting of oil and gas wells, but “cannot ban altogether” the exploration for or drilling of oil and natural gas.
The opinions of attorneys general provide guidance on legal matters, but do not prevent challenges from being filed or carry the same weight as a judge’s ruling.