All fracked up

The possibility of fracking in Nevada awakens environmental activists

Dawn Harris studies in the Center for Molecular Medicine between classes.

Dawn Harris studies in the Center for Molecular Medicine between classes.


The Senate Committee on Natural Resources will hear a bill, S.B. 390, that will ensure that hydraulic fracturing in Nevada does not happen without environmental protections. For more information about the bill, go to

To frack or not to frack?

This question is asked by more and more people as decisions are being made about whether hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, by Noble Energy Inc. will be allowed in northeastern Nevada.

While the public is divided on this issue, Dawn Harris, founder of the Frack Free Nevada website and Facebook page and a University of Nevada, Reno student, believes fracking is dangerous and should be stopped—at least until further research can be done.

“It’s our water and our air,” Harris said. “We cannot survive without it. We need to protect these things.”

The main issue Harris has with fracking is that there has not been enough research done on the topic for various reasons. She wants the practice to halt.

“I think that we need to have a moratorium until there’s science that can say what the effects are,” Harris said. “A pharmaceutical company cannot issue a drug unless it’s tested. Why is this industry allowed to perform all of these actions without any testing to prove that it is safe?”

Through her own research, Harris has spoken to people in areas where fracking has been done to see how it has affected them. She has found various health issues. She stated that the industry claims these are not scientific, only anecdotal, but Harris doesn’t feel this is reason to dismiss these findings.

“It’s a very wealthy, very powerful industry, and they want to protect their interests,” Harris said. “The people experiencing the problems are just everyday citizens. They don’t have anything to gain by standing up and saying, ’Hey, I’m having nosebleeds, and my horses’ hair is falling out. The horses are having nosebleeds. Livestock is dying. And my children have asthma now.’”

Harris is currently looking into the implications of fracking on public health through her personal and university studies.

Although Harris does not agree with the practice of fracking, her goal is to raise awareness and general knowledge of fracking so people can make educated decisions about it. Harris reached out to the Sustainable Energy Network on campus to get Gasland and Rooted Lands—documentaries on fracking—shown on campus April 2 and 7 as part of this.

Harris wants the public to realize the issue of fracking is not a matter of choosing sides but choosing what’s good for the country’s health and future. She believes the industry has created a division in the public to deal with this issue, pitting people against each other who aren’t necessarily at odds.

“They put people who are trying to have money to raise their families against people who are trying to protect our air, water, soil and our way of life,” Harris said. “If we didn’t have that division, if we could see we are all on the same side trying to protect our basic rights to raise our families and eat good quality food and drink clean water and breathe clean air, the industry wouldn’t be able to stand.”

When reached by email to comment on the issue, Noble Energy said it would provide responses to our questions, but at press time, has not.