POINT OF VIEW: Speaker Corcoran needs to schedule fracking bill now

The vision of huge drilling rigs off of our Gulf Coast has re-energized the discussion regarding the appropriateness of certain oil and gas activities in our state. Florida has extensive wetland landscapes like America’s Everglades, sensitive aquifers that provide drinking water for so many, and a valued ecotourism and real estate-based economy. Once spoiled, these natural resources and the economy they support, can rarely be fully restored, and when possible, the cost is great. As we saw in the BP oil spill, economies can also be negatively impacted well beyond the site of the pollution.

To protect our natural resources, we ask our state Legislature to ban fracking and fracking-like activities in Florida this session. This is as urgent a need as the continued efforts to stop offshore drilling. Yet some may not know that fracking has already occurred in Florida and these techniques can continue to be used at any time. Every year that passes without a ban poses increased risks to Florida.

We are grateful for Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, and the first Senate committee who unanimously voted to support an anti-fracking bill moving forward on Feb. 5.

Unfortunately, as happened last year, we understand that House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, has still not allowed a House companion bill to be scheduled. The bills will need to pass both the Senate and the House to become law.

Fracking and fracking-like activities (aka advanced oil well stimulation treatments) pose an enormous risk to Florida because it can result in surface oil spills, water contamination and waste freshwater supplies. Not only can fracking threaten our water quality but these well stimulation treatments waste substantial amounts of our precious — and limited — freshwater supplies. Well stimulation treatments use high volumes of freshwater mixed with toxic chemicals. Any water that returns to the surface includes trace radioactive elements and briny saltwater from underground. The water cannot be re-used to replenish groundwater resources, which is the source of drinking water for over 90 percent of Floridians.

In contrast, South Florida’s oil resources are of poor quality. Florida only has about 1/10 of 1 Percentof total U.S. oil reserves. The proposed legislation would ban risky well stimulation treatments, but would not infringe on mineral rights owners continuing to utilize conventional methods to access mineral resources, alleviating concerns about legal takings.

Over 90 municipalities in Florida — representing over half of the state’s population — have passed local resolutions or ordinances in support of a fracking ban. This is a major issue of concern for Floridians who do not want to jeopardize the quality and availability of water resources for a one-time industrial use that benefits so few.


Editor’s note: Rob Moher is president and CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

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