Expert: Fracking and Florida don’t mix by Chad Gillis, November 2, 2016, The News Press
All the easy oil’s gone, and modern extraction practices aren’t good for Florida anyway.
Those were two arguments made by an Ivy League engineer Wednesday in front of a group of about 200 people at the Florida Fracking Summit at Florida Gulf Coast University.
Fracking ruins drinking water supplies and increases the amount of methane in the atmosphere, said Anthony Ingraffea, with Cornell University’s civil and environmental engineering department.
“As usual, a few folks will get rich, everybody else will get negatively impacted, and the state will get left holding the environmental bag, and, finally, we will have killed the Everglades,” Ingraffea said.
There’s still time to fend off controversial oil extraction methods, he said, but Floridians need to unite and get better educated about the dangers of forcing hundreds of chemicals beneath drinking water aquifers.
Oil exploration started in Florida before the 1940s, but people today are concerned that modern drilling and pumping practices could forever damage drinking water supplies while releasing methane gasses into the atmosphere.
The issue has hit Southwest Florida in recent years as multiple oil companies have sought permits for exploration in Big Cypress National Preserve, a massive swath of the historic Everglades that is protected under the National Park Service.
Extracting oil is bad for the environment on two levels: the product adds emissions to the atmosphere and often requires that trees (which absorb some harmful gasses) be removed from large areas to make room for the platform’s footprint.
The impacts are widespread.
“Since the oil and gas is everywhere, you drill everywhere,” Ingraffea said. “They’ve learned to go back and redevelop old fields and new fields. You don’t just drill one well here. You drill six or seven and then go one kilometer and drill six of seven more.”
Still, fracturing has many supporters.
ExxonMobil’s Ken Cohen, who was not at the summit, says fracking is safer than many people believe.
“Some critics like to say too little is known about the practice of hydraulic fracturing for society to permit its use,” Cohen wrote in a column. “The truth is that most government officials at the federal and state levels know quite a bit about the track record of fracking for oil and natural gas because the practice has been used safely for decades. Many government officials have come to encourage its application because of its proven economic and environmental benefits.” [Where has it been proven? By whom? No evidence of environmental benefit has yet been publicly disclosed, anywhere]
Actor Mark Ruffalo, who plays the alter ego of the Incredible Hulk in the Avengers movies, sent a video message for the summit.
“When this industry comes into a state, first they buy off the state legislators and then they buy off local legislators and the next thing you know people have no voice in what they’re destiny is going to be,” Ruffalo said. “And we’ve seen this time and time again.”
Ruffalo started the non-profit Water Defense, based in New York, and sent Scott Smith, a technology officer and investigator at Water Defense, to represent his group.
Smith said he’s monitored 60 oil disasters since 2013.
Oil extraction is already poisoning Floridians, he said, and allowing companies to pump more will only lead to more damage.
“You see the same thing over and over and over again,” Smith said. “You can change the name and you can change the faces, but 90 percent of solving a problem is admitting that there is one.”
He warned that Florida could fall prey to this facet of the energy industry, especially if the industry is allowed to regulate itself.
“It’s coming into your home every day, especially with organic produce,” Smith said. “Every day oil-based water is being used to irrigate crops that end up on everyone’s dinner table every night. (And) You can’t rely on the companies that create that problem to solve it. When the responsible party is doing the water testing, the water is always going to be clean.”
Houston Cypress, a member of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, came from the Miami area to learn more about fracking and its impacts to the environment.
“I want to understand the threats better and see how we can build a coalition to take action to curtail and stop fracking,” Cypress said. “As a member of an indigenous community in South Florida, there are serious environmental concerns that impact my way of life, and it impacts my cultural practices and my spiritual practices.”
Dave Urich of Fort Myers said Ingaraffea’s presentation was impressive, and that “I just hope people listen.” [Emphasis added]