LINCOLN — Representatives from Nebraska's oil and natural gas industry stood solidly against a bill Wednesday that would require public disclosure of chemicals used in "fracking."
Bruce Evertson, who runs Nebraska's largest oil and gas company, said enemies of fossil fuels, environmentalists and the news media have frightened people into thinking hydraulic fracturing is the latest public health threat.
"Fracking is a bad word, and it's going to turn your hair purple," said Evertson, one of eight to testify against the bill before the Legislature's Natural Resources Committee.
The president of Evertson Companies in Kimball said he has probably "been on more frack jobs than any person walking" over several decades and has never seen one go bad.
Sen. Norm Wallman of Cortland, who introduced Legislative Bill 877, said he's not out to prohibit the practice or make it more expensive for drillers. But he argued that the state needs to collect and keep records on fluids used in fracking so citizens can stay informed.
The proposal would require drillers to disclose fracking chemicals so they can be reported on a public website. Wallman said he thought the bill was necessary after seeing news reports about how the practice has been linked to water contamination in other states.
Hydraulic fracturing has been much discussed in states such as Pennsylvania, New York and Wyoming, where scientific investigations have linked fracking to water and air contamination. But in Nebraska, fracking hasn't been tied to pollution, said William Sydow, director of the Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
"We have completed over 5,000 oil and gas wells in Nebraska," Sydow said. "Hundreds, if not thousands, have been fracture stimulated without any contamination of water."
Nebraska produces about 5 million cubic feet of natural gas daily from 322 wells, mostly in western Nebraska, Sydow said. Well operators must report fracking fluid types and volumes to the commission.
Sydow said water makes up more than 90 percent of fracking fluid. Common additives are nitrogen, carbon dioxide, potassium chloride (a salt) and guar gum, a gelling agent also commonly added to ice cream.
After the hearing, Sydow said the fracking fluids used in Nebraska are pumped into geologic formations far below the aquifer. If contamination had been a problem, components of the fluids would have turned up in drinking wells.
The Nebraska Wildlife Federation submitted a letter in favor of the bill, but no supporters testified.
The committee took no action on the bill Wednesday.
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