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.

Save Nevada’s Water —Ban Fracking in Nevada

TO: NEVADA’S GOVERNOR, NEVADA BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT, AND NEVADA DIVISION OF MINERALS

Pass Legislation in the state of Nevada banning the practice of hydraulic fracturing in the extraction of natural gas and oil, and/or convince the administrators within The Nevada Bureau of Land Management and Nevada Division of Minerals with the power to stop the gas and oil companies from fracking Nevada and deny further permits to Noble Energy and others whom seek permits for similar purposes. But Don’t just wait for the Petition, give the powers that be a piece of your mind.

  • Call Governor Brian Sandoval at (702) 486-2500 and Phone: (775) 684-5670
  • Call The Nevada Division of Minerals Mr. Lowell Price or Alan Coyner (775) 684-7040
  • The Desert Research Institute (775) 673-7300
  • The Nevada Department Of Environmental Protection Mr. Alan Tinney (775) 687-9433

Why is this important?

Hydraulic Fracturing is the process by which thousands of gallons of water per minute and various chemicals including known carcinogens are injected underground at high pressures to break up rock to release natural gas and oil for extraction. This process is not the only way the gas and oil companies drill for gas and oil. It is just that this process releases more oil and natural gas in theory. The EPA website explains the process and has a subsequent link to an interactive presentation explaining the process in detail presented by National Geographic.

The problem is that this water after having been infused with the chemicals often gets into the water table and poisons the water. Furthermore hydraulic fracturing is exempt from the Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and any oversight from government agencies because The 2005 Energy Act and the Halliburton Loophole.

(ENERGY POLICY ACT OF 2005. Go to Page 102, Section 322. HYDRAULIC FRACTURING. SEC. 322. HYDRAULIC FRACTURING. Paragraph (1) of section 1421(d) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300h(d)) is amended to read as follows:

(1) UNDERGROUND INJECTION. The term underground injection

(A) means the subsurface emplacement of fluids by well injection; and

(B) EXCLUDES

(i) the underground injection of natural gas for purposes of storage; and

(ii) the underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities.)

In England hydraulic fracturing has been linked to causing earth quakes by changing underground topography and resulting subterranean settling. In Oklahoma the state is investigating the link between hydraulic fracturing and earthquakes.

The problem has gotten so bad, that in some areas that get their water from wells, the wells themselves end up venting natural gas resulting in flammable water well heads and flammable gas build up in plumbing systems. In Wyoming hydraulic fracturing has poisoned ranchers water to the point to which one can fill up a trough and take a blow torch to the surface of it and form plastics from all the chemicals infused with the water.

Water is the most precious resource in the desert! The gas and oil companies plan on starting hydraulic fracturing in the state of Nevada. Proposed counties include Southern Clark, Nye, and Elko.

This could cripple our tourism industry too. There are assertions we lost a lot of visitors just with the talk of possible ground water contamination from the Yucca mountain project, so can you imagine what this could do to our state? Not to mention what could happen to the ranchers in northern Nevada, their waters, and industries. We need help getting the campaign off the ground. We need volunteers to collect signatures. We need to spread the word about the dangers of hydraulic fracturing. And we need to ban hydraulic fracturing in Nevada!

Sign-the-Petition-gold.fw

REFERENCES

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