Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170;   president@SEVolusiaAudubon.org


December 2015 Conservation Notes


Fracking Florida

Fracking, the gas production process which uses high-pressure injection of hydraulic-fracturing fluids or low-pressure injection of acidization fluids [typically mixtures of hydrofluoric and hydrochloric acids] is an ecologically unsound practice with a proven record of damage to the groundwater and surface waters, to air quality, and to the health of living systems. The additives used in wellsite construction and operations, drilling procedures and waste disposal comprise a very long list of toxic chemicals, including known carcinogens and endocrine and CNS disruptors.  These harmful substances include heavy metals, BTEX compounds (benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene), naphthalene and hydrofluoric acid.  [For an extensive list see https://fracfocus.org/chemical-use/what-chemicals-are-used.]

Fracking also uses millions of gallons of water per wellsite.  Post-use these waters [aka, “flowback”] are unusable as drinking water…forever.  And yet some Florida legislators are proposing new oil and gas regulations that would force this drilling activity on all Floridians, with no local regulatory oversight or zoning bans.

Not only are several of our state legislators not protecting Floridians from the harms of fracking technologies and practices, they are promoting bills that pre-empt the protections adopted by local ordinances. HB 191 “Regulation of Oil and Gas Resources” sponsored by Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R.-Estero) is one such bill.  This bill was passed out of committee by the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on November 3, 2015.

In brief, HB 191 and its companion bill in the Senate, SB 318, would preempt any municipality or county in the state from implementing its own ordinances (including zoning laws) that ban any type of oil and gas production activity (including hydraulic-fracturing—“fracking” —or well acidization).  Among other effects of this bill, the application of Florida’s Home Rule charters would be nullified. 

As Linda Young, from the Clean Water Network, observed:

If passed [these bills] would remove the rights of local government, our cities and counties, to ban fracking, set ordinances, or do zoning, protect local waters, our health.  Counties’ hands would be tied on all issues related to exploration, drilling, transportation of oil/gas, storage, contaminated radioactive wastewater, and water pollution, etc.…It will ban all bans.


A report by Sierra Club Florida provides some additional salient points of discussion and opposition relative to HB 191 / SB 318:

The breadth of opposition to the bill reflects how bad [this bill] is.  [Note:  Opponents include Florida AFL-CIO, Sierra Club Florida, ReThink Energy, the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs, and Physicians for Social Responsibility.] Not only does it preempt local communities from adopting or enforcing regulations - including zoning - that interfere with anything to do with oil and gas (not just fracking), it also uses a definition that excludes acid fracking techniques which are most likely to be used in Florida because of our limestone and dolomite geology.  Therefore, the bill exempts acid treatments from any new regulation - there’s none in the bill and none will be allowed by local governments.


Also, citizens will not be able to find out what toxic chemicals are being injected into the ground because they can be hidden from them by way of the Trade Secrets Act (Chapter 688 of the Florida Statutes.)  First responders and medical personnel will not have the information either. (At the federal level, first responders and medical personnel can get trade secret information when dealing with employees injured on the job but there is no provision for that in HB 191 or in Chapter 688.)


Sponsor Rodrigues claims fracking won’t be permitted until a study called for in the bill is complete and any impacts on aquifers are addressed in rulemaking. But the bill does not link permitting to the study. Also, the study is limited to the same very narrow definition of “high-pressure well stimulation” that excludes acid treatments.

[http://www.sierraclubfloridanews.org/2015/11/fracking-bill-passed-by-house.html]


In Florida at present the governments of six counties [Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe, St. Lucie and Martin] and 45 cities have adopted anti-fracking resolutions.  The population of the counties that have presently banned fracking is approximately 6.3 million. All of these local “anti-fracking” ordinances would be pre-empted by the proposed HB 191 and SB 318.


These bills would disallow the ability to formulate and enforce local regulations that protect the health of the citizens and their local environment that county governments have achieved though the principle of Home Rule. Shouldn’t our local zoning laws protect our citizens, and all life and living systems, from this proven harm?


______

NOTE:  After years of on-going scientific research, there are extensive virtual storehouses of information on the negative effects on the environment (that is, the “externalities”) of oil and gas exploration, drilling, production and transportation. A detailed report (47 pages) on the environmental degradation caused by hydro fracturing (fracking) and associated well development and production activities (e.g. drilling, production y fracturing, disposal of contaminated water) is located at this  Environment Florida web page.





Lamont Ingalls

Conservation Chair