CARSON CITY — A state lawmaker said Tuesday he wants to ban hydraulic fracturing in Nevada because new studies show that the risks outweigh any economic benefits from the controversial practice to produce oil and gas.
Assemblyman Justin Watkins, D-Las Vegas, said the studies show that the process known as fracking contributes to harmful seismic activity, water contamination, air pollution and adverse health effects on humans who live nearby.
Watkins testified for his measure, Assembly Bill 159, which would ban the practice used to obtain oil and natural gas by fracturing rock and repeal the 2013 regulations allowing for its use in Nevada.
The bill was heard by the Assembly Natural Resources, Agriculture and Mining Committee, but no immediate action was taken on the measure.
“What these studies show is that no amount of regulation can eliminate the harmful human effects of fracturing,” he said.
No hydraulic fracturing is underway in Nevada. Some fracking efforts were attempted in Elko County a few years ago, but they were abandoned when the price of oil dropped and made it economically unfeasible.
Assemblyman Jim Wheeler, R-Gardnerville, said the fracking site in Elko County established by Noble Energy was studied by the Desert Research Institute and no water contamination was identified.
But Watkins said the study did not examine seismic, air pollution or human health impacts.
Testifying in support of the bill was David von Seggern, chairman of the Toiyabe Chapter of the Sierra Club, who said Nevada is not a fossil-fuel production state, and so banning fracking would not have a major economic impact. But banning the practice will ensure Nevada’s water supply is protected and prevent the potential of an earthquake, he said.
Assemblywoman Robin Titus, R-Wellington, questioned why a moratorium should not be pursued instead so fracturing could be allowed in Nevada if and when the technology improves.
Tim Shestek, senior director of state affairs for the American Chemistry Council, submitted a letter expressing concerns about the legislation. A ban could stifle future economic growth opportunities, he said.
William Ehni, who operates a Carson City geological consulting firm, told the committee that hydraulic fracturing is safe. The Nevada Division of Minerals has a permit process to allow the process to proceed without endangering the public or environment, he said.
A ban would signal that Nevada is not friendly to the oil industry, and so would adversely affect revenues received from the proceeds of BLM lease sales, Ehni said.
But many other speakers supported the ban, citing the same concerns of water contamination and other potential harmful effects from the practice.
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