Never let the facts get in the way of creating a law banning fracking

Ignorance is no excuse under the law, but apparently creating laws based on ignorance is quite all right.

As we recounted earlier, Democratic Assemblyman Justin Watkins is seeking a ban on fracking.

His Assembly Bill 159 would amend state law by adding: “A person shall not engage in hydraulic fracturing in this State. As used in this section, ‘hydraulic fracturing’ means the process of pumping fluid into or under the surface of the ground to create fractures in the rock to facilitate the production or recovery of oil or gas.”

Watkins is pressing forward with his ban. According an article posted today at the Las Vegas Sun website:

But Watkins said the bill would prohibit only fracking, and that drilling could continue. Because the fracking industry is in such an early stage, he said the legislation would not cost a job. He also said when economic impact is so speculative, legislators should focus on the value of water in one of the country’s most arid states.

“Here, water is the most valuable resource we have,” Watkins said. “To put it into significant danger of contamination … as a trade-off for so little oil … doesn’t make any sense for us.”

The article was not worthy of being printed for the remaining thousands who get the morning newspaper with the Sun insert’s one local story a day.

The “fracking industry” has been around since the Civil War and hydraulic fracking has been used since the World War II, take it from someone who actually worked in the grease orchard.

More than half of all oil production in the U.S. in 2015, whether using horizontal drilling or not, came from fracked wells. Currently, 46 percent of all natural gas production in the country comes from shale, tight sandstone and coal formations that once were not profitable. Also, 90 percent of all natural gas wells drilled require fracking at some point during production.

And threats to groundwater are negligible, as the EPA found despite looking diligently and quibbling in its final report.

The Sun story quotes geologist Bill Ehni as saying, “If that bill were to pass, the oil industry would basically disappear in Nevada.”

 

Newspaper column: Proposed environmental bills would kill jobs

Workers frack a well in North Dakota. (Reuters photo via R-J)

Workers frack a well in North Dakota. (Reuters photo via R-J)

With delusions of saving the planet from catastrophic warming, a Las Vegas assemblyman is offering up a futile gesture in the form of a bill to ban fracking in Nevada.

According to media accounts Democratic Assemblyman Justin Watkins has stated fracking causes earthquakes, contaminates water, pollutes the air and basically creates an eyesore.

His Assembly Bill 159 would amend state law by adding: “A person shall not engage in hydraulic fracturing in this State. As used in this section, ‘hydraulic fracturing’ means the process of pumping fluid into or under the surface of the ground to create fractures in the rock to facilitate the production or recovery of oil or gas.”

First, any earthquakes associated with fracking were not caused by fracking but by pumping fracking waste into injection wells, because the environmentalists object to leaving what is mostly water and sand on the surface.

As for contaminating groundwater even Obama’s EPA had to stretch beyond credulity to conclude there is a “chance” of pollution. In its report on the topic the EPA scientists said fracking “can impact drinking water resources under some circumstances,” but “the scientific evidence is insufficient to support estimates of the frequency of contamination.” They said the instances of contamination were small in comparison to the vast number of fracked wells across the nation. Almost nonexistent is more accurate.

Oil and natural gas wells, with or without fracking, produce oil and gas, the burning of which releases some carbon. We grant that, but fracking has actually cut the nation’s carbon output since natural gas burns cleaner than coal when used in power generation.

As for being an eyesore, modern fracking and drilling techniques eliminate the need to drill hundreds of wells in close proximity to hit small pockets of oil, such as can be seen in Bakersfield, Calif. Instead these pockets are tapped by drilling one well and then drilling out horizontally.

It would appear Watkins is under the misconception that fracking is some sort of recent untested endeavor.

The first fracking patent was issued in 1866. It used nitroglycerin explosions to fracture formations. The first commercial application of hydraulic fracking took place in 1949. In many oil and gas fields a vast majority of wells are fracked at one time or another, either initially or later to prolong the productive life of the well.

In the 1980s Texas oilman George Mitchell combined the techniques of fracking and horizontal drilling to develop the Barnett Shale formation in North Texas. This has resulted in a boom in natural gas production and a decline in oil prices, creating countless jobs and growing the economy.

In 2014 the Nevada Division of Minerals Administrator Rich Perry released Nevada’s 20-page revised rules on fracking that require groundwater testing before and after drilling, pressure testing of equipment, notifications to landowners before fracking begins and abiding by strict engineering standards. More than adequate precautions.

Though there have been a few fracked wells in the Elko vicinity in recent years, there reportedly are none ongoing at this time in Nevada.

But there is potential with the Chainman Shale formation, which lies largely in an 80- to 100-mile-plus radius around Duckwater — including almost all of White Pine County, major portions of Nye, Lincoln, Elko, Eureka and Lander counties, as well as parts of a couple of counties in Utah.

The formation is believed to be rich in oil, though most lies 2 to 5 miles underground, making drilling expensive when oil prices are fairly low — largely due to ample supplies created by fracking.

A fracking ban just might kill a number of potential jobs in Nevada and deprive the state economy and the state tax coffers of revenue. All for no discernible reason.

As if the fracking ban were not enough, another Las Vegas Assemblyman — Chris Brooks, who has worked in the solar panel installation business for years — has introduced legislation that would greatly increase the percentage of electric power sold in the state that must be generated by renewable energy sources — known as the renewable portfolio standard (RPS).

Current law requires 25 percent renewable energy by 2025, but Assembly Bill 206 would increase this to 50 percent by 2030 and fully 80 percent by 2040.

Such a standard would drive up power costs, kill jobs and increase the risk of brownouts and blackouts resulting from intermittent generation when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow — all for the sake of some nebulous superstition that reducing carbon output will save the planet from catastrophic warming.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Bill introduced in Carson City would ban fracking in Nevada

Luddite.

A Las Vegas assemblyman has introduced a bill to ban fracking in Nevada.

According to media accounts Democratic Assemblyman Justin Watkins has stated fracking causes earthquakes, contaminates water, pollutes the air and basically creates an eyesore.

His Assembly Bill 159 would amend state law by adding: “A person shall not engage in hydraulic fracturing in this State. As used in this section, ‘hydraulic fracturing’ means the process of pumping fluid into or under the surface of the ground to create fractures in the rock to facilitate the production or recovery of oil or gas.”

Fracked oil well in Elko County.

Fracked oil well in Elko County.

First, any earthquakes associated with fracking were not caused by fracking but by pumping fracking waste into injection wells, because the enviros objected to leaving what is mostly water and sand on the surface.

As for contaminating groundwater even the EPA had to stretch to conclude there is a “chance” of pollution. In its report on the topic the EPA scientists said fracking “can impact drinking water resources under some circumstances,” but “the scientific evidence is insufficient to support estimates of the frequency of contamination.” They said the instances of contamination were small in comparison to the vast number of fracked wells across the nation.

First fracking patent in 1866.

First fracking patent in 1866.

Oil and gas wells, with or without fracking, produce oil and gas, the burning of which releases some carbon, OK.

As for being an eyesore, modern fracking techniques eliminate the need to drilling hundreds of wells in close proximity to hit pockets of oil, as can be seen in Bakersfield, Calif. Instead these pockets are tapped by drilling one well and then drilling out horizontally.

Watkins seems to be under the misconception that fracking is some sort of recent untested technique.

The first fracking patent was issued in 1866. It used nitroglycerin explosions to fracture formations. The first commercial application of hydraulic fracking took place in 1949. In many oil and gas fields a majority of wells are fracked at one time or another, either initially or later to prolong the productive life of the well.

In the 1980s oilman George Mitchell combined the techniques of fracking and horizontal drilling to develop the Barnett Shale formation in North Texas, according to a history of his company’s development. It has resulted in a boom in natural gas production and a decline in oil prices, creating countless jobs and growing the economy. It also has cut the nation’s carbon output since gas burns cleaner than coal.

In 2014 the Nevada Division of Minerals Administrator Rich Perry released Nevada’s 20-page revised rules on fracking that require groundwater testing before and after drilling, pressure testing of equipment, notifications to landowners before fracking begins and abiding by strict engineering standards. More than adequate precautions.

Though there have been a few fracked wells in the Elko vicinity in recent years, there reportedly are none at this time.

But there is potential with the Chainman Shale formation, which lies largely in an 80- to 100-mile radius around Duckwater — including almost all of White Pine County, major portions of Nye, Lincoln, Elko, Eureka and Lander counties, as well as parts of a couple of counties in Utah.

The formation is believed to be rich in oil, though most lies 2 to 5 miles underground, making drilling expensive when oil prices are fairly low.

A fracking ban just might kill a number of potential jobs and deprive the state economy and the state tax coffers of revenue. All for no reason.

 

Fracking and horizontal drilling eliminate the need for many pumpjacks in one area, like there in Bakersfield, Calif. (AP pix)

Fracking and horizontal drilling eliminate the need for many pumpjacks in one area, like there in Bakersfield, Calif. (AP pix)

 

 

Editorial: Federal government’s fracking rules usurp states’ rights

Our masters in Washington are always searching for solutions to problems. They invariably find a solution even if they can’t find a problem.

The Interior Department recently released a 400-page set of rules for fracking on public lands, which covers about 87 percent of Nevada.

Sally Jewell

“Current federal well-drilling regulations are more than 30 years old and they simply have not kept pace with the technical complexities of today’s hydraulic fracturing operations,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in a press release, completely ignoring the fact that hydraulic fracturing has been used in a majority of oil and natural gas wells since the 1940s. “This updated and strengthened rule provides a framework of safeguards and disclosure protocols that will allow for the continued responsible development of our federal oil and gas resources. As we continue to offer millions of acres of public lands for conventional and renewable energy production, it is absolutely critical the public have confidence that transparent and effective safety and environmental protections are in place.”

Also, she completely ignores the fact the states currently regulate fracking and there have been virtually no problems or water contamination associated with the process. Pay no heed to the fact the states maintain the power to regulate water within their boundaries or that the states maintain police powers over federal land within their boundaries.

Nope, they are from the federal government and they are coming to save the day with job killing, economy choking regulations such as:

• “Provisions for ensuring the protection of groundwater supplies by requiring a validation of well integrity and strong cement barriers between the wellbore and water zones through which the wellbore passes;
• “Increased transparency by requiring companies to publicly disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing to the Bureau of Land Management through the website FracFocus, within 30 days of completing fracturing operations;
• “Higher standards for interim storage of recovered waste fluids from hydraulic fracturing to mitigate risks to air, water and wildlife …”

It took the U.S. government four years to come up with this 400-page usurpation of states’ rights.

Noble Energy drills in Elko County and fracked this well. (Noble Energy photo)

Less than a year ago, the Nevada Division of Minerals Administrator Rich Perry released Nevada’s 20-page revised rules that require groundwater testing before and after drilling, pressure testing of equipment, notifications to landowners before fracking begins and abiding by strict engineering standards — all of which cover the same ground as the federal rules, but took only a couple of months to draft and implement.

Redundancy from the bureaucracy.

The oil and gas industry immediately filed suit in Wyoming to block the federal rules, calling them “arbitrary and unnecessary burdens” for industry.

The Congressional Western Caucus criticized the new fracking rules, saying the process adds costly red tape and bureaucratic uncertainty to the oil and gas permitting process on federal lands.

“The Department of the Interior has yet to demonstrate why a federal hydraulic fracturing rule is even necessary in the first place with states already regulating the practice effectively within their borders,”said Caucus Chairman Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming. “This rule jeopardizes these efforts by forcing states to jump through bureaucratic hoops just to reclaim their authority to regulate drilling and wellhead activities that have been under their purview for decades. The federal government is the newcomer in this space, bringing nothing to the table except more red tape and more barriers to energy production on federal land that continues to lag far behind the energy boom on state and private lands. This rule disproportionately impacts the very western states whose energy reserves are a necessary ingredient to achieving lasting American energy security.”

Thomas Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, said, “The Obama administration’s hydraulic fracturing rule is a solution in search of a problem.”

The federal bureaucrats should be forced by Congress or the courts to back off and let the states handle this.

Nevada Division of Minerals administrator Rich Perry talks about fracking rules established by the state. (Elko Daily Free Press photo)

A version of this editorial appears this week in the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record.

 

Federal bureaucrats create redundant rules to solve a nonexistent problem with fracking

Our Washington puppet masters are always in search of a problem to solve, and they invariably find a solution even if they can’t find a problem.

The Interior Department Friday released a lengthy set of rules for fracking on public lands, which means about 87 percent of Nevada.

AP file photo of natural gas drilling rig in Pennsylvania

“Current federal well-drilling regulations are more than 30 years old and they simply have not kept pace with the technical complexities of today’s hydraulic fracturing operations,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in a press release, never mind that hydraulic fracturing has been used in a majority of oil and natural gas wells since the 1940s. “This updated and strengthened rule provides a framework of safeguards and disclosure protocols that will allow for the continued responsible development of our federal oil and gas resources. As we continue to offer millions of acres of public lands for conventional and renewable energy production, it is absolutely critical the public have confidence that transparent and effective safety and environmental protections are in place.”

Also, never mind that the states currently regulate fracking and there have been virtually no problems or water contamination associated with the process. Pay no heed to the fact the states maintain the power to regulate water within their boundaries or the state’s maintain police powers over federal land within their boundaries.

Nope, they are from the federal government and they are coming to save the day with job killing, economy choking regulations such as:

• Provisions for ensuring the protection of groundwater supplies by requiring a validation of well integrity and strong cement barriers between the wellbore and water zones through which the wellbore passes;
• Increased transparency by requiring companies to publicly disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing to the Bureau of Land Management through the website FracFocus, within 30 days of completing fracturing operations;
• Higher standards for interim storage of recovered waste fluids from hydraulic fracturing to mitigate risks to air, water and wildlife;
• Measures to lower the risk of cross-well contamination with chemicals and fluids used in the fracturing operation, by requiring companies to submit more detailed information on the geology, depth, and location of preexisting wells to afford the BLM an opportunity to better evaluate and manage unique site characteristics.

Less than a year ago, Nevada Division of Minerals Administrator Rich Perry released Nevada’s 20-page revised rules that require groundwater testing before and after drilling, pressure testing of equipment, notifications to landowners before fracking begins and abiding by strict engineering standards.

Noble Energy rig in Elko County

Redundancy from the bureaucracy.

The oil and gas industry immediately filed suit in Wyoming to block the rules, calling them “arbitrary and unnecessary burdens” for industry.

The Congressional Western Caucus criticized, saying the process adds costly red tape and bureaucratic uncertainty to the oil and gas permitting process on federal lands.

“The Department of the Interior has yet to demonstrate why a federal hydraulic fracturing rule is even necessary in the first place with states already regulating the practice effectively within their borders,”said Caucus Chairman Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming. “This rule jeopardizes these efforts by forcing states to jump through bureaucratic hoops just to reclaim their authority to regulate drilling and wellhead activities that have been under their purview for decades. The federal government is the newcomer in this space, bringing nothing to the table except more red tape and more barriers to energy production on federal land that continues to lag far behind the energy boom on state and private lands. This rule disproportionately impacts the very western states whose energy reserves are a necessary ingredient to achieving lasting American energy security.”

Thomas Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, said, “The Obama administration’s hydraulic fracturing rule is a solution in search of a problem.”

The final rule is nearly 400 pages of bureaucratese.

Newspaper column: Anti-fracking lawsuit doesn’t hold water

Send in the Luddites. Don’t bother they’re here.

A group calling itself the Reese River Basin Citizens Against Fracking has joined the cacophony of doomsayers crying in the wilderness for all oil and natural gas exploration to be stopped lest the planet fly off its axis, as reported in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times, the Elko Daily Free Press and the Mesquite Local News.

Specifically, they have filed a federal lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management in an effort to stop a scheduled lease of 230,000 acres of federally controlled land in Lander, Nye and Esmeralda counties for oil and gas drilling, saying the leases will cause “irreparable harm to the environment, cultural treasures and aesthetic interests.”

The 24-page suit goes through the typical litany of alleged woes that come with the hobgoblin of the hour — hydraulic fracturing or fracking, the process in which water and sand are pumped into a well under high pressure to crack rock and shale formations to release oil and gas deposits, which has been practiced since the 1940s and now is used in 90 percent of wells. This has caused a boom in the domestic production of oil and gas, mostly on private land.

While the suit makes a big deal about how much scarce water it takes to frack a well, it also claims the BLM failed to take into account the impact fracking might have on the “numerous alfalfa farms that are adjacent to the parcels both in Reese River and Smoky Valleys.” The suit fails to explain that a one-time well fracking job uses about as much water as an acre of alfalfa every year — about four acre-feet, though most of the fracking water is recycled. Also, the driller would have to buy the water from those who own the water rights.

This lawsuit comes on the heels of a formal anti-fracking lease protest to the BLM by the Center for Biological Diversity, which made much of the fact that fracking uses “toxic chemicals.” Tap water contains toxic chemicals, including the highly toxic chlorine that makes it safe to drink.

The contents of the fracking solution used in the only fracked well in Nevada — in Elko County earlier this year — are posted online at a site called FracFocus, and it is 99.5 percent water and sand with less hydrochloric acid than is found in a typical swimming pool.

While all this gnashing of teeth is going on, The Associated Press reports that many states have yet to recover the jobs lost in the recession. Nevada ranked worst in the nation, having 6 percent fewer nonfarm payroll jobs now than in December 2007. Best in the nation? North Dakota with a growth of 27.6 percent in jobs. Texas was next with growth in jobs of 9.5 percent.

A waitress in North Dakota can earn $25 an hour, while a truck driver can fetch $80,000 a year.

Why do you think that is?

The suit: Resse River lawsuit

Read the entire column at Ely, Elko or Mesquite.

Newspaper column: Fracking good for the economy and not likely to harm the environment

Nevada Division of Minerals Administrator Rich Perry talks about fracking at a hearing in Elko this past month. (Elko Daily Free Press photo)

Recently the Nevada Division of Minerals held a series of public hearings across the state to obtain comments on its new rules regulating hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking, used in oil and natural gas wells.

At the hearings Division of Minerals Administrator Rich Perry explained how Nevada’s 20-page revised rules will require groundwater testing before and after drilling, pressure testing of equipment, notifications to landowners before fracking begins and abiding by strict engineering standards, as recounted in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Public comments ranged from the rationally cautious to the histrionic.

“We trusted the Bureau of Land Management to protect and preserve our public land so that future generations of Americans could continue to enjoy them, and now they’ve leased millions of acres to oil and gas companies, turning wilderness into industrial hell holes that can potentially contaminate the land beyond repair,” testified Las Vegas resident Shannon Salter.

Map of Noble Energy leased exploration area. (R-J graphic)

Asked about the potential to contaminate the land beyond repair, the Division of Minerals staff replied, “From our review of existing studies, we can’t find any substantiate contamination of groundwater from the actual hydraulic fracturing treatment.”

Speaking at hearings on behalf of Noble Energy, the primary company doing any major exploration in Nevada, Kevin Vorhaben, Rockies Business Unit Manager, said, “We firmly believe that with good regulation we can have the energy we need, the economy we want and the environment we deserve.”

In a follow-up interview, Vorhaben said his company is leasing 370,000 acres in Elko County and has already drilled two wells. One should be producing oil by the end of this month.

Though many seem to think hydraulic fracturing is some new, untested technology, it has been used extensively since the 1940s. Vorhaben estimates 90 percent of all wells drilled today are fracked. Fracturing methods date back to the mid-1800s when drillers would drop explosives down a well to break open rock formations.

Of the 370,000 acres leased, approximately 63 percent is on private land, while the remainder is largely on BLM land. On public lands a royalty of 12.5 percent is collected on the value of the oil produced, split evenly between the federal and state governments. Vorhaben said owners of private land typically receive a similar royalty.

If the company reaches its anticipated production of 50,000 barrels a day by 2021, and the price remains near $100 a barrel, royalties could amount to more than $600,000 a day.

With that kind of money, one can afford to spruce up the industrial hell hole.

Read the entire column at the Ely or Elko site.