|NWP seeks more answers about Nevada fracking proposal|
|Written by Wild Nevada|
|Tuesday, 22 January 2013 16:38|
The Nevada Wilderness Project is urging the Bureau of Land Management to fully investigate the environmental and social repercussions and geological implications of a proposal to use fracking in an oil and gas exploration project near Wells, Nev.
Noble Energy has applied for permission to use hydraulic fracturing technology to explore for gas and oil near the Mary’s River west of Wells. We think they should have to do a full-on Environmental Impact Report on the proposal rather than a scaled down Environmental Assessment.
Noble is proposing to drill up to 20 oil and gas exploration wells on federal and private lands over a two-year period. They want to drill two to four test wells in the first year, with the option of shooting more holes in the ground if they need to “define” the amount of oil and gas. They’d use hydraulic fracturing to explore the underground presence of gas and oil.
Fracking, of course, has earned some headlines and Hollywood attention in recent years because of all the really neat things it does to the environment, such as polluting groundwater and allowing nearby residents to set fire to the stream of water coming out of the kitchen faucets. These are called “Fraccidents.”
Fracking, in addition to being a high-caliber profanity used on the old TV show “Battlestar Gallactica,” is when you inject fluids into a bore hole at very high pressure so you can crack the surrounding rock formations up to hundreds of feet from the original shaft. These fractures are held open by a “proppant,” which is sand or some other material that keeps the fractures pried open so the oil and gas can seep into the main tunnel. Sometimes the tunnels are straight down but more recently oil companies have been drilling horizontal bore holes to get at oil and gas that was previously inaccessible.
It’s a big deal; according to the Independent Petroleum Association of America, 90 percent of the new natural gas wells in the U.S. rely on fracking.
The problem is that this technology sometimes pollutes groundwater and drinking water supplies. It also requires a lot of freshwater to work, which is a problem in arid Nevada. There is also the problem of leftover chemicals and improperly sealed wells. When you consider that fracking has been around since 1947, it’s kind of scary that they are still having problems doing it safely.
Another issue with fracking or any other kind of drilling is the impact on wildlife habitat. The Greater Sage-grouse, which is a candidate for the Endangered Species Act, has been greatly affected by the road-building and well-drilling that has occurred in other areas of the West where fracking is used.
Greater Sage-grouse use that Mary’s River area for strutting grounds, which are essential to the bird’s survival. Noble has assured the BLM that it will only work in the area during late summer so as to reduce impact on the birds, but we suspect their plan to build or improve 38 miles of roads in the area could have a major impact on the birds. We think the local pronghorn and migrating deer will also be affected by the roads and traffic, and that improving roads and trails in that area will increase the potential for poaching.
Although the BLM typically only requires an EA for mining exploration – and a full-blown EIS for actual mining production – we’re taking the position that fracking is not mining. Surface disturbances for fracking exploration are almost as significant as those created by post-exploration mining operations, so only an EIS will meet the standards established by the National Environmental Protection Act. In mining exploration, they bore a dry hole, pull out the rock and examine it. In fracking, we’re talking about onsite storage of chemicals, the injection of fluids and surface disturbances that just couldn’t be fully examined in an EA.
We’re also concerned about the earthquake risks posed by fracking. Scientists have determined that fracking can trigger micro-earthquakes, and if the fracking fluid injection is done near fault lines, larger-magnitude tremors could result. The area where the fracking exploration would take place is shot through with active faults – enough so that the BLM would have sufficient cause for concern to deny the exploration permit altogether. The U.S. Geological Survey has already concluded the human-triggered earthquakes are on the rise and that many are caused by fracking. These seismic events have allowed fracking chemicals to seep into domestic water supplies and gases to escape into the atmosphere, exacerbating our problem with global warming and greenhouse gases.
We’re also concerned about the water use. Fracking uses massive volumes of water, from 1.2 to 3.5 million gallons per well, and we feel Noble is being overly optimistic about how little water it will need to fracture these wells. What’s more, Noble needs to be more forthcoming about the toxicity of the fluids that come out of the well – and how it plans to keep that toxic waste away from humans, wildlife and water supplies.