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: 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.