Thursday, April 18, 2013

New Twists in Saga Over Fracking in Nevada

Well, this is interesting. Earlier this morning, CREDO Action dropped an email for a petition created by activist Christian Gerlach demanding a ban on fracking. Last December, plans were announced for fracking in Elko County. Since then, we've learned that Noble Energy wants fracking rights for 40,000 acres of publicly owned land in Elko County... As Nye County has also started to flirt with allowing fracking.

Keep in mind that this is what officials in Elko and Nye Counties are considering.

And because the fossil fuel industry secured fracking exemptions from federal environmental safeguards in 2005, companies have been allowed to get away with this wherever fracking has been allowed. Already, there have been horrifying reports of illness and toxic chemical contamination in Pennsylvania and North Dakota, two states that were early in jumping into the fracking rush. Since then, many communities throughout the country (and around the world) have been running in the other direction in adopting fracking bans.

Unfortunately for Christian Gerlach and CREDO, there's currently no fracking ban pending in the Nevada Legislature. However, Senator Tick Segerblom (D-Las Vegas) has proposed SB 390 to have the State of Nevada fill the regulatory gap left wide open by the federal government. It passed the Senate Natural Resources Committee with a friendly amendment, and now awaits action by the full Senate.

However, there's been another twist to this story. Early this month, NV Energy announced its NVision plan to swallow up a proposed update to Nevada's renewable energy standards invest in more home grown renewable energy while shutting down the last of its coal fired power plants. Yet hidden in depths of NVision was also a proposal for more natural gas power plants. NV Energy officials have not said yet whether they intend to rely on fracking to access the natural gas they seek for their proposed new power plants.

Last Friday, NV Energy seemed to get its way as SB 123 was stripped of its original soul and implanted with NVision. Yet since then, there's been a surprising backlash as several people and companies throughout Nevada have expressed concerns over NVision's cost to consumers. Even though R&R power player Pete Ernaut was able to secure his BFF Governor Brian Sandoval's (R-GML) support, he couldn't quell the growing protests from the state's biggest power players: the gaming industry. Earlier today, Las Vegas Sun reporter Anjeanette Damon went on KNPR's "State of Nevada" to explain the increasingly complicated politics surrounding NV Energy's big policy move.

At first glance, it seems like the fight over fracking is being lost in the shuffle of the new brawl over SB 123. That probably couldn't be further from the truth. NV Energy has the chance to come out and say it's not pursuing fracking. NV Energy can simply say it won't try to trade in one major health hazard (in the Reid-Gardner coal plant) for another (in natural gas fracking).

But because it's not (yet?) done that, this just adds to the many concerns over SB 123-turned-NVision. Will it truly be a chance for Nevada to declare independence from fossil fuels? Or is this just a backdoor attempt to pursue even more fossil fuels... And do so in a way that risks the health of many in this state?

Until these questions are answered, legislators should pause and review what's actually in SB 123-turned-NVision. And they should keep asking these questions. And they should at least pass SB 390 as more information is unearthed on fracking.

Perhaps this isn't what CREDO had in mind when sending out the email for Christian Gerlach's fracking ban petition, but it may very well add fuel to the fire of the latest controversy to turn the Nevada Legislature upside down.

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