More than 76 percent of Florida’s electricity is generated using imported fossil fuels. As our reliance on natural gas continues to grow, Florida Power & Light Co. recently signed deals to produce natural gas from fields in Oklahoma. In response, the push to increase natural gas production here in Florida has intensified, which in turn increases the incentive for risky local hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) practices throughout Florida’s spongelike ecosystem.
No new wells have been fractured in Florida since 2003, according to the state Senate Appropriations Committee. Companies such as Dan A. Hughes Co., however, use a unique fracking method specific to Florida known as acid fracturing. Acid fracturing involves re-entering an old well to extract additional oil or gas, using acidic water to dissolve rock. More than 160 wells in Florida are being injected with high-pressured acidic water.
Considering Florida’s geology, as well as the additional risks of acid fracturing techniques, Florida’s clean water reservoirs are particularly at risk. For example, a fracking wastewater spill within the Biscayne Aquifer, the tri-county area’s largest source of clean drinking water, could permanently contaminate the entire reservoir. The natural geological barriers separating Florida’s labyrinth of limestone aquifers from fracking wastewater have been significantly diminished over the years.
Last year, Broward and Miami-Dade counties voted to ban fracking. A recently proposed statewide bill, however, would prohibit all cities from regulating fracturing. Compounding the problem is the decision by Florida’s Environmental Regulation Commission (ERC) to increase the acceptable level of 23 chemicals in our drinking water, including benzene, typically found in areas surrounding fracking sites. The ERC’s decision could allow legislators to argue that many of the chemical pollutants associated with fracking now fall within acceptable state guidelines.
It’s time to choose. Instead of looking to shortsighted, irresponsible methods of energy production, such as acid fracturing, our legislators in Tallahassee need to look forward, toward alternative energy markets such as wind and solar, to diversify Florida’s energy portfolio.
ROB LONG, DELRAY BEACH
Editor’s note: Rob Long is a newly elected board member of the Palm Beach County Soil & Water Conservation District.