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No clear projections for cost of fracking ban in Nevada

CARSON CITY — A money committee heard conflicting, unpredictable projections Tuesday over how much revenue Nevada could lose if it imposes a ban on hydraulic fracking.

Assembly Bill 159 sponsored by Assembly Justin Watkins, D-Las Vegas, would grandfather in the five existing fracking permits, only one of which is in production, Watkins told members of the Ways and Means Committee.

The policy of a ban was approved earlier by the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, but the bill was referred to Ways and Means because of possible revenue ramifications.

Nevada gets a share of mineral leases and royalties from operations on federal lands. The state Department of Education said about $4 million from federal mining leasing revenue goes to the state public school account, though it cannot be determined how much would be lost by banning fracking.

The state would also lose roughly $3,500 a year in permit fees.

“It’s a little bit of guess work,” Watkins said, adding the loss in permit fees does not calculate savings of not having to enforce terms of those permits.

Watkins said any revenue loss from leasing or royalties would be minimal because fracking accounts for only a tiny fraction of oil production in Nevada.

“We have about 200 active oil wells in the state,” Watkins said. “We have one active fracking.”

But Assemblyman Chris Edwards, R-Las Vegas, questioned the wisdom of cutting off an industry.

“How do we really gauge the economic impact and the loss of tax revenue when we really don’t know what we could have, and should we even stop that before we really know?” he asked.

Watkins countered that if fracking was viable in Nevada, there would be more interest in it.

“I think we know what we have here,” he said. “It’s been around since 2009, yet in the state of Nevada we’ve only produced 17,000 barrels.”

No action was taken by the committee.

Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3821. Follow @SandraChereb on Twitter.

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