Nearly a month after the Florida House of Representatives passed a controversial bill to regulate fracking, the argument continues as the state’s senate prepares its vote.
The proposed bill, largely supported by state Republicans and opposed by Democrats, would regulate the practice of fracking within the state. However, the new bill would also supersede any ban on fracking passed by city and county legislators and ban their ability to ban fracking in the future.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking as it is commonly referred to, is the process used to extract natural gas and oil from rock that lies deep underground. A deep well is drilled and injected with millions of gallons of fracking fluid – a mix of water, sand and chemicals – at a high enough pressure to fracture the rock and release the oil or gas. Critics claim the process is unsafe, environmentally hazardous, and that it endangers water supplies.
Currently, there is no fracking in the state. Yet, it is not illegal and other underground drilling has occurred in various forms. Should the new law pass there would be a moratorium on fracking until the EPA is able to conduct studies on the impact fracking and similar techniques would have on Florida’s water and geology.
Following the EPA’s study, legislators would pass laws that safely regulate the fracking industry based on the EPA’s report.
Yet, despite the bill’s purported efforts to regulate a potentially lucrative industry, 27 counties and 41 cities have already banned fracking and this bill has only bolstered their opposition.
“These House members turned a deaf ear to the hundreds of peer-reviewed studies that have highlighted just how dangerous the process of fracking – from beginning to end – is to the health of nearby communities,” said Dr. Lynn Ringenberg, President of Physicians For Social Responsibility on behalf of Floridians Against Fracking, in a statement.
“Pro-fracking legislators, intent on doing the oil and gas industry’s bidding, even scorned sensible health-specific amendments that would have looked at studying things like the pre-natal health effects of fracking.”
Another amendment required the disclosure of any chemical used in fracking operations that is considered a carcinogen, such as benzene, but this amendment was also dismissed.
However, even with the concerns of lawmakers and residents throughout the state the legislation passed the house with no new amendments. This was no doubt met with enthusiasm from the bills biggest proponents.
According to an investigation by the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau, the oil and gas industry contributed at least $443,000 to the political committees of top Republican lawmakers since the last election. The top contributor, the Barron Collier Companies, which wants a permit to use hydraulic fracturing to drill for oil and gas in Naples, donated $178,000 to lawmakers since December 2014, including $115,000 since July. Other members of the petroleum industry have contributed $265,000 this election cycle.
The bill now awaits a vote in the Senate where it will be hotly debated. The decision by the Senate will either provide a boon for special interest groups or demonstrate the power that the people still have despite not having the deep coffers of large corporations. More importantly, it could determine the state of Florida’s environment for decades to come. If you would like to do something to oppose fracking in Florida you can sign a petition here.