September 2, 2014

Fracking would be under closer scrutiny under Unicameral bill

Sen. Norm Wallman

Sen. Norm Wallman

A bill that would put new requirements on companies undertaking hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — in Nebraska is drawing little opposition in the Unicameral.

The bill (LB 856) was introduced by Senator Norm Wallman of Cortland, who calls it a straightforward bill. It would require companies that draw groundwater to install meters that measure the amount of water used and the amount of fracturing fluid recovered. Measurements would be reported to the Department of Natural Resources.

“I think we need to know where it’s going, nothing new,” Senator Wallman says. “I think knowledge is the key. Don’t you want to know where your water is going? It’s already being monitored so I think it’s a good thing to put in the statute.”

No one turned out to speak against the bill at a hearing in Lincoln last week. Wallman admitted to being surprised by that when asked about it by Natural Resources Committee member Ken Haar.

“Didn’t you find this a little bit of a strange hearing without any opposition showing up,” Haar asked. “Absolutely,” Wallman answered, laughing, “that’s unusual for me.”

One organization testified in support of Wallman’s measure. Ken Winston of the Nebraska Sierra Club said water is a key resource in Nebraska and the state’s constitution ranks domestic, agriculture and industrial uses as priorities for water.

Winston says, “It’s very important to agriculture, it’s very important for domestic uses, for society in general, and also, the fact that we’re trying to find ways of sustaining our water so we have a sustainable water supply going forward.”

Opposition to the bill was submitted in written form by Black Hills Energy. Company officials say they already measure water they use in gas exploration and development.

By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice