Florida senate’s environmental conservation committee voted 10-0 approving bipartisan bill to ban fracking statewide

Doesn’t Donnie Trump want his $200 Million Mar-a-Lago weekend home & water supply frac’d ‘n quaked?

Lawmakers From Both Parties Move to Ban Fracking in Florida by Mike Ludwig, February 7, 2018, Truthout

The effort to prevent fracking in Florida cleared a major hurdle on Monday as the state senate’s environmental conservation committee approved a bipartisan bill to ban fracking statewide by a 10-0 vote.

The bill would place a permanent ban on “advanced well stimulation techniques” for producing oil and gas, including fracking and acidizing. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves injecting large volumes of water, chemicals and sand at high pressure into oil and gas wells to break up underground rock formations and release raw fossil fuels. Acidizing is a similar technique that dissolves underground formations with corrosive acids.

The bill was introduced by State Sen. Dana Young, a Republican from Tampa who said in a statement that the legislation is a “priority” for protecting “drinking water and our one-of-a-kind natural resources.”

Along with several Republican cosponsors, Young appears to be taking a not-in-my-backyard-style departure from the GOP party line. [Perhaps under Trumpian orders?]

Republicans on Capitol Hill and in statehouses across the country have long worked to dismantle environmental regulations and support the rapid expansion of fracking, which has stoked nationwide controversy over drinking water contamination, air pollution and the disposal of fracking wastewater.

Now, under the Trump administration, efforts to sweep away environmental protections and expand oil and gas production have gone into hyper drive, particularly on public land.

However, the industry has hit a snag in Florida, where both Democrats and Republicans remain concerned about potential impacts that industrial oil and gas development could have on the Sunshine State’s rich natural resources and tourism-heavy economy.

Trump’s Interior Department recently removed waters off the coast of Florida from a list of areas where the government wants to expand offshore drilling after a plea from Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican who otherwise supports fossil fuels production.

“[Fracking] is a bipartisan issue, just like the opposition to offshore drilling, because Florida is really dependent on a tourism economy,” said Jorge Aguilar, the southern regional director of Food & Water Watch, a group that campaigns to ban fracking. He added that memories of the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are still fresh in many Floridians’ minds.

Fracking has yet to gain a foothold in Florida, where unique limestone geology holds large underground water reserves and feeds freshwater springs that attract tourists from around the world.

Fracking would drain large amounts of fresh water from these reserves, and conservationists worry that the porous limestone puts aquifers at risk of being contaminated by fracking chemicals and waste fluids.

Floridians are also concerned with protecting sensitive ecosystems such as the Everglades from industrialization. In fact, 90 local city and county governments have passed measures restricting unconventional oil and gas production in their areas, according to Food & Water Watch. Lawmakers from both parties have taken notice.

“What we see in Florida is a real focus on protecting its water resources; the geology of the state is really porous,” Aguilar said. “There is a real fear by [both] conservatives and Democrats that the fracking industry — which is a new, unconventional type of drilling — could really contaminate water resources and use up millions of gallons of water.”

Aguilar said oil and gas operators are exploring drilling permits in the Florida panhandle and the southwestern part of the state despite local opposition. Industry lobbyists are also pushing back against the proposed ban in the legislature.

“You’re sending a message to the rest of the country that fracking is not good, and I think that’s the wrong message,” Florida Petroleum Council Associate Director Eric Hamilton told the Sun Sentinel, a south Florida newspaper, explaining that fracking can be done “safely” in Florida if large reserves of oil and gas are discovered in the future.

The Sun Sentinel reports that the bill to ban fracking in Florida faces a tough road in the legislature’s lower chamber, where Republican leaders prefer compromise legislation [Secretly deregulated regulation is the Republican favourite] that would place a temporary moratorium on fracking while regulators study its potential impacts on the state’s unique environment.

However, anti-fracking activists remain hopeful that the ban will succeed. Aguilar said the ban would appeal to fiscal conservatives who may cringe at the idea of spending taxpayer dollars to fund studies on fracking, which is already unpopular among their constituents.

“What we have argued is that there are enough studies to show the inherent harms of fracking that we don’t need to spend any more taxpayer money to … make sure it’s not right for Florida,” Aguilar said.

Three states — Vermont, New York and Maryland — have banned fracking, while other states with large oil and gas reserves have embraced it as an economic boon, despite environmental concerns. A campaign to ban fracking is currently underway in Illinois, where at least one fossil fuel company has pursued high-volume fracking and wastewater injection permits, according to Food & Water Watch.

That company withdrew its permit applications in October in the face of tight regulations and environmentalist opposition. Now, activists in Illinois are asking state lawmakers to put tougher restrictions on fracking or ban it altogether. [Emphasis added]

Fracking Ban Bill Passes First Senate Committee by John Davis, February 7, 2018, WGCU News Release, Florida Trend

Despite early indications that a proposal to ban fracking in Florida would not advance in the current state legislative session, the bill passed its first senate committee Monday. 

The bill (SB 462), sponsored by Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa, unanimously passed the Senate Environmental and Preservation Committee.

The proposal calls for an outright ban on “advanced well stimulation treatments” including hydraulic fracturing, acid fracturing and matrix acidizing.

These well stimulation techniques involve breaking up underground rock formations by blasting them with high-pressure water, acid and other chemicals to extract oil and gas.

An identical bill stalled during last year’s state legislative session over concerns that to date, there has been no Florida-specific study documenting the risks of fracking in the state’s unique limestone geology.

Since 2013, House Majority Leader Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Fort Myers, has tried, unsuccessfully, to champion bills creating a regulatory framework for the fracking industry in the state.  His most recent proposal in 2016 would have imposed a two-year moratorium on fracking and ordered a Florida-specific study to determine the potential impacts of fracking.  He considers a study to be a crucial element. [Of course he does. Industry would control the study and its outcome. The study would conclude that more study is needed, and recommend using Floridians as guinea pigs: frac ‘n study them as their state is frac’d to pieces (just like Dr. John Cherry and his band of frac panel bandits recommended in 2014 for Canadians). Greed would take over from there; frac quake and crumble, goodbye Mar-a-Lago]  In an interview prior to the start of the 2018 legislative session, Rodrigues said, “Without the study, you don’t have the threat and without the compensation in the bill, what you now have is a bill that takes property, which now leaves the taxpayers subject to being challenged for a Burt Harris claim, which is the act that says you can’t take people’s property without paying them.”

“And taxpayers could be on the hook for this.  From my perspective, the study needs to be done or they need to put in the money to compensate the property owners,” said Rodrigues.

However, Senior Environmental Policy Specialist with the Conservancy of Southwest FloridaAmber Crooks said the risks of surface water and ground water contamination from fracking make the technology incompatible for Florida.  She said it poses too great a risk to human health, the environment and to Florida’s economy.

We need to take a look at the studies that are available and similar to what we have done for offshore drilling, we as Floridians, need to determine what level of risk, given our economy, which is based on real estate and ecotourism, that we’re willing to accept in Florida,” said Crooks.

“I think a majority of Floridians, based on that 90 municipalities that have already passed an ordinance or resolution, would be with us to say that they don’t want to see fracking in Florida.”

Crooks also points to the only documented instance of fracking in Florida as indicative of the problems that come with the technology.  In late 2013, when the Texas-based Dan A. Hughes oil company violated its drilling permit and performed hydraulic fracturing and matrix acidizing on the Collier Hogan well near Immokalee.

The Conservancy continues to work with the Department of Environmental Protection on quarterly water quality monitoring reports because several possible pathways to contamination have been identified.

“Everything from a canal potentially being contaminated with oil waste from a dumpster on site to the old abandoned wells that were within a couple hundred feet of the Collier Hogan well that were not properly plugged and abandoned to today’s standards, to the illegal disposal of more 80 barrels of oily waste water back into the well itself,” said Crooks.  “These are all pathways of contamination that we saw just in that one well.”

Crooks also said 35 truckloads containing more than 200,000 gallons of toxic wastewater byproduct from the Collier Hogan well fracking incident was transported to Raider Environmental Services in Opa-Locka for disposal, but because the source of the water or its potential contaminants was not disclosed, the waste water wasn’t properly treated and an unknown quantity of the contaminated water ended up in the ocean. [Frac waste contaminated supper at Mar-a-Lago? Fresh from the ocean!]

In past years, opponents of a fracking ban have touted the economic benefits of energy independence and stoked fears about high gas prices.

However, the Conservancy’s Amber Crooks countered that the quantity and quality of Florida’s oil is not that significant.

“As an example, we produce one quarter of one percent of the oil production in the United States and that oil, because if its poor quality, it isn’t going to gasoline,” said Crooks.

“It’s going to things like asphalt.  It’s being sent overseas.  So our question is, ‘Is it worth the risk to our water quality, to our drinking water supply and for Everglades restoration, and our tourism economy and our real estate economy to try and get that one tenth of one percent of that oil out of the ground using these risky techniques?’  We don’t think so.”

Monday’s senate committee vote comes less than a week after hundreds of Floridians converged on Tallahassee to rally support for the bill.  It now moves to the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources.  The bill’s House companion measure (HB 237), sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-St. Petersburg, has yet to be voted on by any committee despite having 19 co-sponsors in the House. [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to:

2017 04 26: Nasty Slick Water Florida Politicians! Triple betrayal! Fracking investment bill would undo 2016 Supreme Court ruling

2016 09 07: And they want to frac Florida? Massive sinkhole causes vast waterfall of wastewater into Floridan drinking water aquifer

2017 03 08: Wow Florida! Senate reversed years of opposition to statewide ban on oil & gas fracking, Advancing bill to prohibit fracking in Florida

2016 11 05: Dr. Anthony Ingraffea: Fracking and Florida don’t mix, “As usual, a few folks will get rich, everybody else will get negatively impacted, and the state will get left holding the environmental bag, and, finally, we will have killed the Everglades

2016 10 10: Sink Hole Florida: Miami-Dade County Votes Unanimously to Ban Fracking, Citing Multiple Environmental Concerns; More than 80 Florida cities and counties have banned or expressed opposition to fracking

2016 08 26: To new peer-reviewed studies published after Florida significantly increases toxic chemicals allowed dumped in waterways: 1) Chemicals used in fracking, other gas, oil operations increase risk of miscarriages, reduced male fertility, prostate cancer, birth defects, preterm birth by disrupting hormones; 2) Lit review shows increased risk of negative reproductive effects from exposure to fracking, other oil, gas extraction activities, especially for miscarriages, reduced semen quality, prostate cancer, birth defects, preterm birth ]

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