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What the frack?

To frack or not to frack?

This isn’t a question from Battlestar Galactica, but a serious environmental issue. Several companies have expressed interest in bringing the technology of fracking -- which involves pumping a slew of chemicals, water and sand into the earth to force natural gas or oil to the surface -- to Nevada. The process has been controversial in other parts of the country, and the New York state Assembly last month passed a bill that would stop any fracking efforts for two years.

State Sen. Tick Segerblom, a Las Vegas Democrat, has introduced legislation that would require companies to pay fees and get a permit from the Department of Environmental Protection in addition to a permit from the Division of Minerals, which is already required.

Conservation groups, including the Nevada Conservation League, support Segerblom’s bill, SB 390. It would require companies conducting fracking to monitor air and water quality, list chemicals used in the process and study the groundwater at the site. It would also ban fracking operations within 2,000 feet of homes, schools or hospitals.

National and state conservation groups are concerned that fracking could lead to contamination of sparse groundwater sources and other environmental problems.

Segerblom’s proposal has not generated a lot of fans among geology and petrochemical companies that hope to find an energy bonanza in Nevada.

“I am seriously concerned that, if SB390 is passed in its present form, this opportunity for significant discoveries of new hydrocarbon reserves will be lost, along with attendant robust job creation and revenue enhancement for our state,” said Jerome Walker, representing Charter Post Exploration, a company with oil and gas leases in Eastern Nevada, in testimony to the Senate Natural Resources Committee Tuesday.