Bill introduced in Carson City would ban fracking in Nevada


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)



The man who created all those fracking jobs dies

The father of fracking died Friday. He was 94.

George Mitchell first made his fortune in Wise County, Texas, as a partner in a company called Christie, Mitchell & Mitchell, for which I worked as a roustabout in the 1960s.

But it was his tenacity and willingness to gamble on new techniques that earned him a place in history. And it started in the Barnett Shale of Wise County in the 1980s.

George Mitchell

Hydraulic fracturing has been used in the oil fields since the late 1940s, but he was the one who combined it with horizontal drilling to pry loose oil and gas from tightly packed shale formations.

story in the Houston Chronicle in 2009 describes a phone conversation in which George Mitchell of Mitchell Energy in 1982 insisted that fracking efforts continue.

“In the field the stance was that it wasn’t economical, the formation wasn’t viable and couldn’t make enough gas,” said Jay Ewing. “But this was Mitchell on the phone saying. ‘This is what we’re going to do.’ ”

The article quoted Dan Steward, a former geologist and vice president with Mitchell Energy who wrote a history of the company’s development of the Barnett Shale, as saying the industry eventually would have figured out how to make shale gas profitable. “But George Mitchell is responsible for making it happen right now, when we need it.”

The New York Times obituary for Mitchell notes that in a letter to President Obama this past year, Daniel Yergin, an energy scholar and author, proposed that Mitchell be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. “It is because of him that we can talk seriously about ‘energy independence,’ ” he said. Of course, Obama ignored the letter, even though Mitchell’s natural gas productivity has been credited single-handedly with slashing dramatically the nation’s carbon output that Obama so often rails against.

Mitchell’s innovations created hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Newspaper column: Don’t let feds stop those f- – -king jobs

Nevadans are about to be dragged into the debate over hydraulic fracturing — fracking to those of us who grew up in the grease orchards.

Houston-based Noble Energy Inc. has announced plans to drill exploratory wells across a 40,000-acre tract of public and private land west of Wells in search of oil and/or natural gas, as reported in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times and the Elko Daily Free Press. The company has stated the area may hold up to 1.3 billion barrels of oil equivalent.

R-J map

But that energy is expected to be locked in tight rock formations like the Bakken Shale in North Dakota or the Barnett Shale in north Texas. Profitable production may require drilling horizontally through the formation and then cracking the rock by injecting — under high pressure — water, sand and trace amounts of chemicals — fracking. (See video above)

Environmentalists worry that fracking could contaminate groundwater.

But if the federal agencies that control 85 percent of the land in Nevada try to interfere with drilling plans by claiming a potential impact on groundwater, they may be in for a legal and political fight.

Rep. Mark Amodei, whose 2nd Congressional District covers most of northern Nevada, says he met recently with the state director of the Bureau of Land Management and her district directors to discuss ongoing issues and head off any jurisdictional conflicts.

Amodei said the state engineer is in charge water rights, not the federal government. “I feel like we did a pretty clear and relaxed job of just telling them, under this fracking thing, don’t think you’re now going to be the state engineer.”

Read the entire column at the Ely or Elko websites.