by JERI CHADWELL
The Assembly Committee on Natural Resources, Agriculture and Mining met Thursday to discuss a bill that would require the development of a program to regulate the use of hydraulic fracturing in Nevada.
Commonly known as “fracking,” hydraulic fracturing is a process in which an amalgam of water, sand and chemicals is pressurized and injected into the ground to break up rock formations. Fracking can be used in the retrieval of natural gas and oil from deep beneath the earth’s surface, which is exactly what Houston-based Noble Energy Inc. intends to do in Elko County.
Senate Bill 390 was sponsored by Senator Tick Segerblom and Assemblymen David Bobzien and Skip Daly. If the measure passes, the Nevada Division of Minerals and the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection would work together to develop a program to regulate fracking in the state.
During Thursday’s hearing, the Assembly Committee heard testimony from Paul Enos, CEO of the Nevada Trucking Association, who spoke in favor of SB390 on behalf of Noble Energy.
Enos said that Noble Energy believes that a state program to regulate fracking will help protect Nevada’s environment and ensure proper disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking operations. According to Enos, Noble Energy already discloses the chemicals used in its operations, even in states that don’t require chemical disclosure.
“They’re a party of a group called FracFocus, which is actually a website owned by the Groundwater Protection Council of which our Nevada Department of Environmental Protection is a member, and they do put the list of all the chemicals that they use in the fracking process and every well up on the website,” Enos said.
Several Committee members raised concerns about the potential risks associated with fracking. Assemblywoman Dr. Heidi Swank expressed her concern that fracking might lead to an increase in earthquakes in the state, referencing a swarm of earthquakes in Arkansas that experts have said may be attributable to fracking activities. Assemblywoman Leslie Cohen voiced her own concerns about the amount of water that would be required to run a fracking operation and asked Enos to give the Committee an idea of how much water would be used.
According to Enos, the amount of water required is about the same amount as is needed to build five single-family homes.
“That water, often times, is recycled and used over and over again in different wells,” Enos said. “So we are very cognizant of the amount of water and how important it is, especially out in the West High Desert.”
Assemblyman Ira Hansen expressed his support for the continuing development of new energy production technology as well as his hope that fracking operations in Nevada may help the United States to become less dependent on foreign oil for energy.
“I just wanted to tell Noble Energy and all of those people out there how thankful I am for this kind of brilliance and the ability to develop these kind of technologies,” Hansen said. “While I agree that there’s some needs for regulations, we should be praising you guys for what you’ve really done,”
SB390 passed out of the Senate on Tuesday and now has less than a week to clear the Assembly before the end of the legislative session.