Two Lawmakers Want To Ban Fracking In Florida

CREDIT: AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Fracking opponents protest before the Tom Corbett inauguration to become the 46th governor of Pennsylvania at the state capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011.

Two Florida state senators introduced legislation this week to ban fracking in their state, citing concerns about environmental impact and potential damage to water supplies.

State Senators Darren Soto (D) and Dwight Bullard (D) filed a bill on Tuesday that, if adopted, would prohibit hydraulic fracturing in Florida. In a press release announcing the legislation, the senators said that Florida’s natural beauty, major tourism industry, and underground aquifers would be at risk if fracking becomes common in Florida.

“The key is this: there shouldn’t be any fracking in Florida,” Soto told Florida’s WGCU. “We are a beautiful state that has so much to lose from fracking and so little to gain from a few small areas that it’s actually just disgraceful that we would allow it here.”

Soto is most concerned about fracking’s potential impact on the Floridian Aquifer, which serves as a drinking water source for nearly 10 million people. Fracking’s impact on groundwater has been documented: a 2012 study found that chemicals from fracking in the Marcellus Shale region could find their way into drinking water more quickly than scientists had previously thought. And a September study from this year linked groundwater contamination in Texas and Pennsylvania to faulty casing and cementing in gas wells.

“We get most of our water from the Floridian Aquifer — which is obviously an underground water source,” Soto said. “We are very concerned fracking could potentially do damage to this critical water supply.”

Fracking isn’t yet common in Florida, but it made headlines this summer when a Texas company used an “enhanced extraction procedure” similar to fracking in an exploratory drilling operation near the Everglades. The company injected pressurized acid into the ground to help dissolve underground rock and access oil deposits. It’s a process similar to fracking, but since it dissolves rock instead of fractures it, there’s some debate over whether or not it can be classified as fracking. Still, residents and environmental groups were concerned about the practice.

“This is our watershed,” Vickie Machado, a Florida organizer for Food & Water Watch, told the Orlando Sentinel in May. “They are using millions of gallons of clean water, mixing it with chemicals with known carcinogens and pumping it underground to break up the protected rock formations out there. The potential is pretty scary.”

Soto and Bullard’s bill isn’t the only anti-fracking proposal to be drafted in Florida in recent weeks. In November, law students at Florida’s Barry University and the League of Women Voters of Orange County unveiled a proposal that limits where and when companies could frack in Florida and allows municipalities to ban the practice. Chuck O’Neal, chair of the natural resources committee of the League of Women Voters of Orange County, told Orlando Weekly that Florida is “a new frontier for oil and gas companies,” and that he has concerns about the practice becoming common in the state.

“When you have a flow of oil coming up from the ground and there’s a crack in the pipe, all you’re going to have happen is have water get into that pipe, and that’s not such a big deal,” O’Neal said. “But when you reverse the procedure and you put chemicals in there under very high pressure and send them down into the ground to break open deposits to extract oil and gas, and you have a crack in the pipe, it can send those chemicals shooting into the water supply. And we have no regulations on that practice.”