Nevada has become the newest state to frack for oil.
Noble Energy Inc. first used fracking to explore for oil in Nevada in March, and as the AP reports, the company hasn’t yet determined the monetary potential of the region’s previously inaccessible oil deposits. The company is seeking oil underneath a 580-square-mile stretch of land, 67 percent of which is privately owned, with the rest managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. So far, two exploratory wells have been drilled (both of which are on on private land) and fracking has occurred on one. “What’s unique about Nevada is it really is a frontier area,” Kevin Vorhaben, Rockies business unit manager for Noble Energy, told the AP. “It’s a chance to get in and really do the right thing for oil and gas development. We’re excited to be in Nevada.”
Not everyone is excited to have the oil company in Nevada, however. Some are concerned that fracking will use too much of the desert state’s precious water supplies. Some are worried that fracking could contaminate the groundwater. Other states have already seen fracking use up considerable portions of their water supplies — in one county in Texas, fracking accounted for almost one quarter of total water use in 2011. Last year, in the midst of a severe drought, some Texas residents wondered why so much water was still being shipped to fracking operations — especially when, according to one resident, “getting one oil well fracked takes more water than the entire town can drink or use in a day.”
“The primary goal in a desert is to protect our water,” Bob Fulkerson, executive director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, told the AP. “That’s how we protect our life.”
Other states, too, have grappled with groundwater contamination from fracking. Last year, an Environment America report noted that in New Mexico alone, chemicals from oil and gas pits have contaminated water sources at least 421 times. The report also noted that fracking one well requires anywhere from 2 million to 9 million gallons of water on average — since 2005, according to the report, fracking operations have used 250 billion gallons of fresh water.
The possible threat of earthquakes triggered by fracking, which Oklahoma and Ohio have dealt with in recent months, also worry some Nevadans, as does the potential impact of fracking operations on the state’s greater sage grouse population.