The Nevada Senate has sent a bill to the Assembly that would regulate fracking but falls far short of what would be necessary to protect Nevada’s air, water and wildlife from the controversial oil and gas extraction process that has recently arrived in the state. Senate Bill 390 would merely require the Division of Minerals and the Division of Environmental Protection to develop a “hydraulic fracking program” for the state. The approval and implementation would ultimately be left up to the Commission on Mineral Resources, a body heavily influenced by the mining and oil and gas industries.
“The Senate’s weak bill leaves Nevada dangerously vulnerable to fracking pollution,” said Rob Mrowka, a Las Vegas-based conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Let’s hope the state assembly recognizes that we need a moratorium on this dangerous practice while we assess the risks to our air and water.”
Fracking uses huge volumes of water, mixed with sand and dangerous chemicals, to blast open rock formations and release oil and gas. The controversial technique—currently unregulated and unmonitored by state officials—is being proposed for use on more than 350,000 acres of public lands overseen by the Bureau of Land Management in central Nevada. One proposal by Noble Energy would place up to 20 wells on over 20,600 acres of public land east of Elko, NV.
A typical hydraulic fracturing process uses between 1.2 and 3.5 million gallons of water per well, with large projects using up to 5 million gallons. Additional water is used when wells are refractured. This water often resurfaces as “flowback,” which is often highly polluted by fracking chemicals as well as radioactive materials from fractured shale.
Fracking pollutes the air by releasing dangerous petroleum hydrocarbons, including benzene, toluene and xylene. It can also increase levels of ground-level ozone, a key risk factor for asthma and other respiratory illness. Air pollution caused by fracking contributes to the risk of asthma, cancer and other health problems in people living near fracked wells, according to a Colorado School of Public Health study.
“There are numerous pathways of contamination that put public health at risk,” said Dawn Harris, a student at the University of Nevada—Reno and organizer of the group Frack Free Nevada. “The citizens of Nevada look to the legislature and the governor to put their health before profits. It is imperative we know the implications of hydraulic fracturing to our citizens in order to make an informed decision about this industry conducting business in Nevada.”
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