Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fracking the Hell Out of Nevada?

Since January, we've been closely monitoring the surreptitious campaign to bring fracking to Nevada. Since then, Senator Tick Segerblom (D-Las Vegas) introduced SB 390 to institute state fracking regulations... And NV Energy unleashed its NVision into SB 123. While the (again) revised SB 123 does not call for as many new natural gas power plants as the earlier version of NVision, it does nonetheless call for more natural gas power in Nevada. And we've yet to see answers on where NV Energy expects to find the natural gas for these proposed new power plants.

Today, Senator Segerblom testified in favor of SB 390. However, he was not alone. Nevada Conservation League's Kyle Davis spoke in favor... And so did Paul Enos. He's President of the Nevada Trucking Association, but today he testified as a lobbyist for Noble Energy, the company pursuing a fracking license in Elko County.

Question time soon began. And Assembly Member Heidi Swank (D-Paradise) kicked it off by asking about "swarms of earthquakes" that have recently been striking Arkansas. Enos claimed they were likely just caused by a "bad drill".

Assembly Member Ira Hansen (R-Sparks) called fracking "a miracle". "We should be praising you guys from freeing us from the oil cartels," he said. Enos appreciated the praise... Because it at least temporarily deflected from the frightening reality that Assembly Member Swank alluded to. Earlier this month, The Nation published an expose on the ugly reality that fossil fuel fracking has brought to Western Pennsylvania. And that can be added to the growing pile of fracking horror stories.

Assembly Member Lesley Cohen (D-Henderson) then asked about water. There's a reason for that: Fracking is very water intensive. And the chemicals used in fracking contaminate the remaining water supply. And last time we checked, Nevada doesn't have much water. So why again are we even considering opening our lands to fracking?

More fossil fuel industry representative then spoke in favor of SB 390... But qualified it by saying they only now support the bill because it does NOT ban fracking, as a growing coalition of environmental and community health activists have been calling for. They then disputed the growing body of evidence showing the real dangers of fracking. I wonder if they've ever spoken with anyone from Timpson, Texas (and for that matter, the Dallas-Fort Worth region as well).

Assembly Member Cohen later corrected earlier claims that fracking doesn't affect water supply. That certainly is not the case in Colorado. And it certainly is not the case in Pennsylvania. And it's hard to believe that somehow Nevada is immune to the dangers being realized elsewhere.

Assembly Member Paul Aizley (D-Paradise) asked state regulators testifying at today's hearing about cleaning up. That's also what many residents of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Colorado, and elsewhere continue to ask.

No action was taken on SB 390 today. But considering SB 390's unanimous approval by the Senate on Tuesday, the bill is expected to easily pass the Assembly. And considering the broad support the bill seems to have now, it's unlikely Governor Brian Sandoval (R) will veto it.

So is this really "good news"? Keep in mind that various fossil fuel industry lobbyists testified in favor of SB 390 precisely because it does not ban fracking. And considering one of them said he changed his mind on the bill precisely because its language was watered down amended, this should set off alarms.

OK, OK, so SB 390 at least fills the regulatory void left by the Bush Administration in 2005. That's a start. But considering Noble Energy supports this bill, it may very well leave the door to fracking wide open here in Nevada. And remember that companies like Noble want to frack for more of the very fossil fuels that are fueling the climate crisis.

There's a reason why many Californians have been protesting Governor Jerry Brown's (D) consideration of fracking there. And there's a reason why over 250 communities across the US have passed anti-fracking resolutions. Oh, and there's a reason why France and Bulgaria will not allow any future fracking. This shit is dangerous, and we're only opening ourselves up to peril if we start fracking the hell out of Nevada.

So what will it take for our state to realize the peril that lies ahead?

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