A Letter to Governor Sandoval

— originally drafted by Christian Gerlach and edited by Vickie Rock

Dear Governor Brian Sandoval,

Can you please explain why the Nevada Division of Water Resources has denied new water wells to farmers and ranchers due to drought in northern Nevada, yet that same Division has approved permits for oil companies like Noble Energy, a corporation that plans to use millions of gallons of our ground water to hydraulically fracture in a known seismic zone?

Farmers and ranchers actually return something of value to humanity.  Frackers, on the other hand, infuse our limited water resources with hundreds of nasty chemicals, including known carcinogens like benzene and glycol-ethers (precursors to plastics).  In that process, the water consumed by frackers is rendered unusable, except for more fracking.

Governor, you are allowing state agencies, that are supposed to protect our citizenry and natural resources, to disregard measures that ensure the public’s safety. SB390, as passed, makes it such that companies like Noble Energy can literally frack Nevadans, without any fear of recourse for any misdeeds or damage the create environmentally or ecologically.

The Desert Research Institute (DRI) is being paid by Noble Energy to do studies on the areas that are going to be fracked.  And, according to the Nevada Division of Minerals, the results of DRI’s study can be kept confidential at the request of Noble Energy for potentially, an undisclosed amount of time. Studies are NOT being done independently of Noble Energy, and the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection won’t be required until 2015 to come out with its own study of fracking’s impact.  How is this not a conflict of interest? Something that puts people’s livelihoods on the line? The people of rural Nevada don’t have the luxury of LakeTahoe or LakeMead. Northern Nevadans have water wells that could easily be poisoned through fracking processes.

On March 13th 2013,  KNPR’s State of Nevada had Rayola Dougher, a senior economic adviser for the American Petroleum Institute, as a guest. She misled KNPR’s listeners as to the safety of fracking.  Ms. Dougher failed to mention that the process is exempt from seven major federal regulations:

Really?  Please explain how SB390 which you signed into law will protect our municipal water supplies.  I’d love to hear or read that explanation.

Another fact, which was taken offline by Nevada Public Radio (@KNPR), is that a man by the name of David Focardi commented about the interview.  Mr. Focardi commented that he had worked on oil rigs in Nevada and that there was fresh water up to 14,000 feet deep. I reached out to Mr. Focardi, but he has yet to answer any of my correspondence.

According to Mr. Lowell Price of the Nevada Division of Minerals, fracking would take place in the 7000 to 9000 foot depth range.  And while our ground water aquifers may be at depths of say 14,000 feet, our “ground” is riddled with fault lines. Those fault lines mean that there may not be an impervious layer of rock between where hydraulic fracturing is proposed to take place and the actual aquifer feeding our communities with drinking water.  Those fault lines may also provide connections between subterraneous channels and the different aquifers of water supporting our communities.  Once that water is contaminated, what happens to our communities.  The only good that may come from fracking, if you really can call that “good” — is that I guess that would mean you won’t be grabbing any of that water from contaminated northern Nevada aquifers for use in Las Vegas and its suburbs.  But then, that’s a whole different letter for another day.

Fracking processes require thousands of gallons of water-laden frack fluid PER MINUTE pumped under high pressures into deep horizontally drilled oil/gas wells.  Frack fluid could be released through a fault line or a fracture created by fracking into municipal ground water. When I spoke to someone at the Desert Research Institute they said that a geological study is being done and any “study” would remain the proprietary information of Noble Energy.  So, even if Noble Energy or the Desert Research Institute found fault lines they won’t be required to tell anyone about it.  Reliance on secret and proprietary studies conducted by organizations that would have significant incentive to conceal any information that might have an adverse effect on approval, is tantamount to malfeasance in governance on your part.

I realize that if Noble Energy had to release information as to where the oil is, that could allow other oil companies to come in and undercut Noble Energy.  But there needs to be a work-around to ensure our water resources are not placed at risk.  The risk to human health and life should matter more than any sum of profit for a single corporation.

So I ask you Governor why frack with us or allow others to do so? There is already oil drilling in Nevada done without Fracking. Why must we frack? I say bring oil jobs to Nevada if you must, but don’t frack!  Now the reason I post this is because of what you promote, Governor Sandoval.  You keep saying it’s about jobs and that Hydraulic Fracturing would bring jobs to Nevada. The truth is, these jobs won’t be widespread nor will they sustainable lest there are thousands of oil/frack wells, like there are in Texas or North Dakota.  But, Mr. Governor, we do NOT have the water resources to make that happen.  And what water we do have, won’t be usable for human consumption once Frackers are done with it.  So. Mr. Governor, when all is said and done, what jobs you create would be for naught, as without drinkable water, Nevadans will no longer be able to live anywhere near the wastelands created by the Frackers.

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Drought-Stricken New Mexico Farmers Drain Aquifer To Sell Water For Fracking

Just for reference sake, Humboldt County, NV is currently classified as ‘D3 Drought – Extreme’ and the USDA has designated Elko County as a primary natural disaster area due to damages and losses caused by drought, yet Governor Sandoval is considering green-lighting fracking operations between Elko and Wells. We don’t have enough water, and they want to divert what supplies we have to potentially contaminate what remains … and then they want to contaminate the air we breathe as well.  Here’s a graphic video from BakkenWatch.org about what’s happening in North Dakota which, if you’re an animal lover, will bring tears to your eyes

 

 

— BY JOE ROMM ON AUGUST 5, 2013

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The bad news is that the terrible drought in New Mexico has led some farmers to sell their water to the oil and gas industry. The worse news is that many of them are actually pumping the water out of the aquifer to do so.

The worst news of all is that once the frackers get through tainting it with their witches’ brew of chemicals, that water often becomes unrecoverable — and then we have the possibility the used fracking water will end up contaminating even more of the groundwater.

The Albuquerque Journal reports:

With a scant agriculture water supply due to the prolonged drought, some farmers in Eddy County with supplemental wells are keeping bill collectors at bay by selling their water to the booming oil and gas industry.

The industry needs the water for hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, the drilling technique that has been used for decades to blast huge volumes of water, fine sands and chemicals into the ground to crack open valuable shale formations.

You may wonder why farmers would sell water to frackers when some 95% of the state has been under severe drought conditions for the entire year. The short answer is it pays the bills. Here’s the longer answer:

In recent months, more legal notices have been appearing in the Current-Argus informing the public that a water-right holder with a supplemental well has submitted an application to the state engineer’s office seeking to change the purpose of use from agriculture to commercial, or transferring the right from one location to another.

“A lot of folks are doing that,” said New Mexico Interstate Stream Commissioner Jim Wilcox, an Otis resident and president of the Otis Mutual Domestic Water Association. “I can’t blame them. The Carlsbad Irrigation District doesn’t have the water the farmers need, and our farmers have to have some income coming in.”

Wilcox said farmers in the Carlsbad Irrigation District can’t sell their primary water source they receive via the irrigation system because the CID is a government project. However, if they have a supplemental well, they can apply for a change of use permit that gives them the right to sell their well water for commercial use.

Yes, the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commissioner can’t blame farmers for an ultimately self-destructive practice that can’t possibly be sustained. Perhaps he should read Thomas Jefferson’s “brilliant statement of intergenerational equity principles.”

Wilcox fully understands what it means to pump an unreplenishing aquifer during a drought:

“Farmers right now are having to pump their supplemental wells, and we understand that. It’s their livelihood,” he said. “But the supplemental wells are drawing from the same water table we provide potable water to our customers (from).”

“The oil and gas industry is requiring a lot of water and our concern is the effect it’s having on our aquifer,” he added. “We are concerned about losing water that can’t be recovered. Hopefully, we will get through this drought and everyone will be intact.”

While this drought will likely end at some point, climate change means droughts in the southwest are going to get longer, drier, and hotter. If we don’t reverse emissions trends very soon, the entire region is headed towards permanent Dust Bowl conditions.

The oil and gas industry apparently doesn’t care whether it helps destroy the entire water supply of New Mexico — as long as the groundwater supply lasts until they finish fracking the state. You’d think state officials would see the value for farmers and residents in sustainable water consumption given where the climate is headed.

Tragically, fracked water can be worse than unrecoverable. It can poison groundwater when reinjection wells fail, which they are prone to do as Propublica explained in their exposé in Scientific American, “Are Fracking Wastewater Wells Poisoning the Ground beneath Our Feet?” As that article pointed out:

“In 10 to 100 years we are going to find out that most of our groundwater is polluted,” said Mario Salazar, an engineer who worked for 25 years as a technical expert with the EPA’s underground injection program in Washington. “A lot of people are going to get sick, and a lot of people may die.”

The Albuquerque Journal quotes one local man, Jim Davis:

“In some areas, we are over-appropriating. We are in a drought and the water table has dropped drastically and there is no recharge,” he said. “There are some people who have legal water rights and they are over-pumping. The public doesn’t know about it. As private individuals, we have to raise Cain about it.

… “Black River is at its lowest level ever. It’s lower than it was in the 1950s when we had a long drought. I make my living from selling water, but at the same time, I think it is important to protect our precious water supply.”

Davis has been “selling water commercially from his wells in Black River for about seven years”! But now things have gone too far even for him.

After Cain murdered Abel, God asked him where his brother was. Cain famously replied, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” As Answers.com puts it, “Cain’s words have come to symbolize people’s unwillingness to accept responsibility for the welfare of their fellows — their ‘brothers’ in the extended sense of the term. The tradition of Judaism and Christianity is that people do have this responsibility.” Seriously.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

It’s Time Put the Brakes on Exporting Fracked Gas

Nationally —

Right now, communities across the country are already fighting the fracking industry for clean air and clean water. And the stakes have gotten even higher with the potential for more fracking — all so the natural gas industry can export liquefied natural gas (LNG) to other countries.

The natural gas industry is working every angle — drilling in local communities with abandon while pressuring federal, state, and local policy makers to change laws so they can drill even more. This has got to stop. President Obama needs to make sure there is a time out on LNG exports.

Send your letter today! Tell President Obama to put the brakes on exporting fracked gas.

TakeAction

President Obama is only hearing one side of the story from the Department of Energy, and it favors the natural gas industry. DOE’s recent study on the economics of fracked gas exports completely ignores the public health, environmental, and climate costs of an export rush. The study also shows that the middle class loses if gas is exported — our wages fall and our utility bills rise, while the gas companies get rich.

Let’s remind President Obama of all the other costs: the cost of buying drinking water because your well is polluted with fracking chemicals, lost work days because your child is sick due to respiratory problems, and increasing utility bills to heat our homes while communities are left to pay the price for fracking.

Here at Home in Nevada — 

Houston-based, Noble Energy, has amassed leases of 350,000 net acres  in Elko County on both public and private lands, and is currently drilling exploratory wells around Tabor Flats, just west of Wells.  Fracking has been proven to cause earth quakes and we all know that Wells is an area known to be sensitive to earthquake activity.  The Nevada Wilderness Project has expressed some serious concerns about  Noble Energy’s activities — “We believe that the environmental and social repercussions and possible geological implications … must be investigated in great detail before exploration through fracking can be permitted on public lands.”

Wells-Fracking-Area-LVRJNoble Energy intends to access to oil or gas otherwise trapped deep in the ground through “fracking” — in other words,  by injecting a liquid solution of water, sand and chemicals (which have been found to contain some extremely toxic chemicals and carcinogens) into a well that at high pressure fractures the shale, allowing oil or gas to flow back through the hole.  And … while they say they’re doing this well below any water tables, many folks across the nation where “fracking” has already begun are finding that those chemicals have percolated up into the water table and contaminated their wells and aquifers.

We don’t have all that much water to spare, and now companies like Noble Energy intend to consume vast amounts of water and potentially contaminate what remains for human and wild life consumption.

As if fracking could get any worse for arid Nevada, each fracked oil well consumes millions of gallons of water and turns it into toxic wastewater. But that isn’t stopping Noble Energy from planning a massive 350,000 acre, $130 million fracking project in Elko County.

The project requires approval from Governor Sandoval to move forward. He’ll be under tremendous pressure to green-light the disastrous project, so it’s urgent that Nevada residents speak out against the project now.

Tell Governor Sandoval: Don’t frack Nevada.

Sign-the-Petition-gold.fw

Fracking involves blasting millions of gallons of water, deadly toxic chemicals, and sand underground to break apart shale formations, releasing tiny bubbles of oil and gas. Much of the water remains underground forever while the rest, with its toxic chemicals and radioactive material, returns to the surface.

This wastewater can’t be disposed of in conventional water-treatment facilities, so it’s often dumped in massive open ponds that create dangerous air pollution or in deep injection wells that cause earthquakes.

Fracking will only exacerbate Nevada’s already dire water crisis, as it’s done in other Western states. In Colorado, for instance, fracking already consumes more water than Fort Collins, the state’s fourth-largest city, and the fracking industry routinely outbids farmers for water rights.

Wastewater is only one of the many threats that fracking poses to nearby residents. Fracking-related chemical spills and well casing failures contaminate drinking water, and fracking generates cancer-causing air pollution and smog. Plus, each fracked oil well requires hundreds of trips by diesel trucks, increasing traffic fatalities and respiratory illnesses in nearby communities.7

Shockingly, this dangerous practice remains virtually unregulated at the federal level, where Dick Cheney and Halliburton managed to pass sweeping loopholes exempting fracking from most major environmental laws, including the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act.8 As a result, the burden of regulating fracking has fallen on states, which have, without exception, badly failed to protect their citizens.9

It’s important to act now to prevent fracking before it starts in Nevada, and before Nevadans find themselves facing similar public health crises as heavily fracked states like Colorado, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Resources:
1. Bruce Finley, “Drilling spills reaching Colorado groundwater; state mulls test rules,” The Denver Post, December 9, 2012
2 Henry Brean, “Oil/gas search: Fracking comes to Nevada,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, January 16, 2013
3. “Study shows air emissions near fracking sites may pose health risk,” University of Colorado Denver Newsroom, March 19, 2012
4. Becky Hammer, “Fracking’s Aftermath: Wastewater Disposal Methods Threaten Our Health & Environment,” NRDC Switchboard, May 9, 2012
5. Mark Harden, “Fracking in Colorado uses a city’s worth of water, enviro report says,”Denver Business Journal, June 20, 2012
6. Jack Healy, “For Farms in the West, Oil Wells Are Thirsty Rivals,” New York Times, September 5, 2012
7. “Hydraulic Fracturing 101,” Earthworks
8. Lauren Pagel and Lisa Sumi, “Loopholes for Polluters,” Earthworks, May 16, 2011
9. Steve Horn, “Regulatory Non-Enforcement by Design: Earthworks Shows How the Game is Played,” DeSmogBlog, September 27, 2012

Speak Out Against Fracking in Nevada

Fracking is a dangerous method of oil and gas extraction that contaminates water and puts nearby residents at risk of serious illnesses, including cancer and asthma. And it’s coming to Nevada.

As if fracking could get any worse for arid Nevada, each fracked oil well consumes millions of gallons of water and turns it into toxic wastewater. But that isn’t stopping Noble Energy from planning a massive 350,000 acre, $130 million fracking project in Elko County.

The project requires approval from Governor Sandoval to move forward. He’ll be under tremendous pressure to green-light the disastrous project, so it’s urgent that Nevada residents speak out against the project now.

Tell Governor Sandoval: “Don’t frack Nevada!”

Sign the Petition