Inside an emotional debate over fracking in Nevada

Nevada Senate Bill 390 requires the development of a fracking program and its regulations.
Illustration: Chris Morris

At a public workshop on fracking hosted by the Nevada Division of Minerals last week, Rob Telles, a local father of three, suggested that even with the most well-intentioned protections in place, there’s always the potential for human error when blasting water, sand and chemicals into the ground to extract gas and oil.

Joining Telles, who dipped out of work to attend the workshop at the Grant Sawyer Building March 21, were other locals who shared concerns over disposal of fracking wastewater, the fallibility of concrete casings built to protect against leakage and news reports from other cities linking hydraulic fracturing to earthquakes, toxic air and water contamination.

Christian Gerlach, representing Nevadans Against Fracking, noted that Nevada’s ground is “fractured and full of fault lines.” Like others who spoke, he said he’d prefer to see solar or wind energy. But the issue dominating the public comment portion was, of course, water—the water needed for fracking wells and potential contamination of what little water Nevada already has. Some residents pleaded with the panel to reconsider fracking, even telling them that they’ve been bought by the industry.

At least twice the moderator reminded the audience to forego the loose comments and applause. This was an open public workshop, after all—the last of three in Nevada regarding Senate Bill 390, which requires the development of a fracking program and its regulations.

Despite assurances of safety from a Noble Energy representative and from Rich Perry, administrator for the Nevada Division of Minerals, those slapping “ban fracking now” stickers onto their clothes weren’t buying it.

Tags: Opinion
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