Fracking opponent warns Florida will ‘become more porous than Swiss cheese’ by Brendan Farrington, January 27, 2016, jacksonville.com
TALLAHASSEE | The state House approved a bill Wednesday that would create regulations for fracking despite strong opposition from Democrats who said the oil and gas drilling practice could contaminate groundwater, damage the environment, make people sick and hurt Florida’s tourism industry.
The House voted 73-45 in favor of the bill (HB 191) after more than an hour of debate, with only a handful of Republicans joining Democrats in opposition.
The bill calls for the Department of Environmental Protection to conduct a $1 million study on how fracking would affect surface and groundwater and underground geology and then set [de]regulations for the fracking industry. It will also look at how water and chemicals will be disposed of and any potential for contamination once a well has been plugged.
Supporters argued that fracking, which uses water and chemicals to blast through rock to get to oil and gas underneath, is already allowed under Florida law and the bill would simply make sure it’s done safely. They downplayed the risks involved in the process.
“Wishing for a zero risk process or some absolute safety is not possible,” said Republican Rep. Cary Pigman, a medical doctor from Avon Park. “Oil and natural gas production is an untidy process. So is all of mining. So is farming. So is industry. Yet our society needs energy, we need food and we need the finished products made from natural resources.”
Democrats listed problems with contamination and spills in states that allow fracking. They also said wells often quickly run dry, leaving damage behind and no long-lasting economic benefit. And they said that a state prone to sinkholes shouldn’t be blasting holes below the earth’s surface.
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“In order for the fracking industry to thrive in this state, Florida will have to be drilled so many times that it will become more porous than Swiss cheese,” said Democratic Rep. Dwight Dudley of St. Petersburg.
He also said fracking will put the state’s multi-billion dollar tourism industry at risk by threatening springs and other waterways.
“Let us not injure or kill the golden goose in pursuit of fool’s gold,” he said. [Wise fellow]
Democrats argued that lawmakers should ban, not regulate fracking. [Emphasis added]
HOUSE APPROVES CONTROVERSIAL FRACKING BILL, DESPITE OPPOSITION FROM DEMOCRATS by Jenna Buzzacoo with contributions from Associated Press, January 27, 2016, Florida Politics
The House voted 73-45 after more than an hour of passionate debate to approve the bill (HB 191), with just a few Republicans joining Democrats in opposing it.
“Yesterday, over 27 counties said they wanted to ban fracking yet you are up here representing your county and you’re just going to push that green button just because your leadership says ‘do it,’” said Rep. Larry Lee, a Port St. Lucie Democrat. “It’s wrong.”
… “This process has taken four years. This topic has had 17 committee hearings in the House and three votes on the floor, after this vote today,” he said. “I recognize this bill is in the center of a storm of controversy.”
The bill requires the Department of Environmental Protection to conduct study into the impact fracking, and other high pressure well stimulation techniques, have on Florida’s water and geology.
“This bill is not the beginning, it’s not the end, but it is the continuation of a journey that Florida is taking to preserve and protect our environment,” said Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, a Fort Myers Republican. “I am confident it is much better to examine and regulate the potentially harmful practice than to do nothing at all.”
It also requires the agency to designate FracFocus, a national chemical disclosure registry, as the state’s chemical disclosure registry; increase penalties from $10,000 a day per violation to $25,000 a day per violation; and requires drillers to get a permit before they can begin fracking.
The bill prohibits local governments from instituting bans, but allows local governments to adopt and enforce zoning and land use regulations as long as those rules don’t “impose a moratorium on, effectively prohibit, or inordinately burden” those activities.
“This bill recognizes the emergence of new technology in energy independence in the United States and Florida,” said Rep. Shawn Harrison, a Tampa Republican. “We owe it to our constituents to fully explore whether this new technology can be safely done in Florida, where it can be done in Florida and if it can be done to protect our citizens while reaching the goal that we all share, which is energy independence.”
The reaction to the House decision was swift, with opponents voicing their dismay over the legislative body’s decision.
“These House members turned a deaf ear to the hundreds of peer reviewed studies that have highlighted just how dangerous the process of fracking – from beginning to end – is to the health of nearby communities,” said Dr. Lynn Ringenberg, president of Physicians For Social Responsibility on behalf of Floridians Against Fracking, in a statement. “Pro-fracking legislators, intent on doing the oil and gas industry’s bidding, even scorned sensible health-specific amendments that would have looked at studying things like the pre-natal health effects of fracking. It is a shameful day.”
Ringenberg said if the measure becomes law, communities around the Florida Everglades “will be permanently at risk of exposure” to water contamination and air pollution. She said organizations are now “relying on the Senate to reject this reprehensible bill.”
While opponents expressed outrage over the passage, some business organizations applauded the House for passing the measure. In a statement Wednesday, Brewster Bevis, senior vice president of state and federal affairs for Associated Industries of Florida, commended Rodrigues for his efforts.
“By working in good faith with concerned citizens and third parties, we believe that the final product of HB 191 both appropriately empowers the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to properly regulate the onshore oil and gas industry, and also ensures the protection and preservation of Florida’s environment,” he said in a statement.
The Senate companion (SB 318), sponsored by Naples Republican Sen. Garrett Richter, has one more committee stop before it heads to the full Senate for a vote. [Emphasis added]
BROWARD BANS FRACKING BUT PREPARES FOR A FIGHT WITH TALLAHASSEE by Jerry Iannelli, January 27, 2016, Broward Palm Beach
Tanya Tweeton, an activist with the SouthEast Florida Sierra Marine and Water Quality Team, was seated in the hall outside yesterday’s Broward County Commission meeting, chatting nervously with three friends. The County Commission was set to vote on an ordinance to ban fracking, the process by which water, sand, and chemicals are injected into the ground to extract deep-seated oil. A few group members wore stickers with the words “Ban Fracking Now” decorated on their arms.
Chemicals used in fracking are potentially hazardous, and companies have pushed for laws that let them go without disclosing the chemicals to the public, in the name of protecting trade secrets. “I’m here because I don’t want my water polluted like Flint,” Tweeton said, referencing the fact that Flint, Michigan’s drinking water has become contaminated with lead. (Flint’s water, however, was not damaged by fracking.) “If the aquifer gets contaminated, that’s it,” she added. “The water will be poisoned.”
More than 50 activists showed up yesterday to support the ordinance, which Commissioner Beam Furr proposed after a company, Kanter Real Estate LLC, filed an application to drill an exploratory well in the Everglades, roughly five miles west of Miramar, to hunt for oil. Kanter owns roughly 20,000 acres of undeveloped Everglades land, and activists presume that if Kanter finds oil, it will frack the land to remove it.
… The Everglades is one of the most fragile ecosystems in the world, and Kanter’s well sits not only within it but above the Biscayne Aquifer, one of South Florida’s largest sources of drinking water.
Before the vote, the South Florida Wildlands Association held a news conference in the lobby outside to support the bill.
The ordinance then passed unanimously — Republican Commissioner Chip LaMarca characterized water quality as both a “sanitation” and “justice” issue before voting — but the fight over fracking is far from over.
Just as the County Commission brought the ordinance to a vote, the Florida state Senate was considering a bill that would, if passed, nullify any fracking bans at the county level and give the state government sole power to regulate the process. The Senate appropriations committed advanced that bill, SB 318, on Monday, setting it up for a vote that could come by the end of the week.
Though Broward’s fracking ban passed with relative ease, virtually every supporter who spoke in front of the commission, as well as most commission members themselves, said they were concerned that Tallahassee appears to be “selling out” the county.
Karen Dwyer, an activist with the Stone Crab Alliance in Collier County, drove from Florida’s West Coast with her husband to join the protest. Tallahassee’s bills “would pre-empt home rule, diminish public safety, and fast-track fracking in Florida,” she said to the commission.
State legislators “defend their bills by saying that ‘something is better than nothing,’” she added. “But their bills are something that is far worse than nothing. Their bills cripple local governments so that they cannot defend their citizens against the dangers of the oil industry.”
Matthew Schwartz, the Wildlands Association’s executive director, told New Times that even drilling an exploratory well could damage the Everglades immensely. “The people doing the permitting are geologists and engineers,” he said. “They’re not wetland experts.” He has long been confused, he said, as to why oil drilling rights always seem to trump the rights of local animals. “Oil rights trump panthers,” he said with a shrug.
He repeated the same sentiments in front of the commission — and, like many others, warned the county government that it could be in for a legal battle if Tallahassee’s bill passes.
Lake Worth Commissioner Christopher McVoy too showed up to speak to the commission.
“There is a huge disconnect between what you are courageously doing and what Tallahassee is doing,” he said. “But clearly there are going to be fights. The issue of home rule and who really gets to say who does what” will be an ongoing issue. “Gird your loins for a really big fight,” he said.
Before voting to approve the ordinance, Broward Mayor Marty Kiar said that, of all the times Tallahassee has tried to exert control over Broward, he felt this time was the most egregious. [Emphasis added]
House rejects attempts to impose health restrictions on oil and gas fracking by Mary Ellen Klas, january 26, 2016, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau
The Florida House smacked down a series of Democratic amendments aimed at weakening a bill that prohibits local governments from banning high pressure well stimulation known as fracking and positioned the bill for approval by the full House on Wednesday.
The amendments, by Reps. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, and Amanda Murphy, D-New Port Richey, Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, Kristin Jacobs, D-Coconut Creek, would have allowed local governments to regulate the activity, impose testing of water quality and water wells, study the effects of the fracking chemicals on human health, and require local voter approval before fracking activities being.
… The bill, HB 191, is sponsored by Rep. Ray Rodriques and is being pushed by the oil and gas industry. But it is also vigorously opposed by environmental groups and 41 cities and 26 counties — including Miami Dade and Broward counties.
A similar measure, SB 318, is also moving quickly in the Senate. According to an analysis by the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau, the oil and gas industry contributed at least $443,000 to the political committees of top Republican lawmakers since the last election.
The top contributor, the Barron Collier Companies, which wants a permit to use hydraulic fracturing to drill for oil and gas in Naples, steered $178,000 to lawmakers since December 2014, including $115,000 since July. Other members of the petroleum industry have contributed another of $265,000 this election cycle.
Proponents of the bill said they won the support of the Florida Association of Counties and the League of Cities with a provision that postpones the prohibition on fracking bans until a study on the impact of the state’s geology is completed in 2017.
After that, the bill allows the controversial practice to go forward with minimal local regulation but requires the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to enact rules to [de]regulate and [not] monitor the practice. The rules would then have to be ratified by the Florida Legislature.
A similar bill, by Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, has passed one committee in the Senate, where the bill died last year.
One amendment by Jenne, to study the impact of the fracking chemicals on pregnant mothers, unborn babies and other human health, won the support of at least one Republican, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar.
“If fracking hurts unborn babies and if it is proven that fracking hurts unborn babies then should we let frackcing to continue,’‘ Gaetz said.
But the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, said the amendment wasn’t needed because the study will look at the impact on people’s health.
Jenne cited a study from the University of Missouri near a fracking site in Colorado which found endocrine disruptors in the water. Another study by Princeton, Columbia and MIT found that proximity to a fracking site in Pennsylvania increased the likelihood of low birth weight babies by more than half — form about 5.6 percent to more than 9 percent.
“These aren’t some whacked out environmental groups,” he said. The amendment failed 69-45.
Another amendment, to require the disclosure of any chemical, such as benzene, used in the fracking operation that is also considered a carcinogen.
As Jenne delivered an impassioned plea to urge the chamber not to “inject cancer into the soil” and noted “that the state gives millions a year to cancer screening and many people volunteer to defeat cancer,” many of his colleagues ignored him, chatting in clusters around the chamber.
“We can also agree cancer is evil,” Jenne said. “Not a single one of us wants more cancer in the State of Florida.”
The amendment was rejected 71-42.
He noted that the state gives millions a year to cancer screening and many people volunteer to defeat cancer. “All that work…simply say that we as a body do no believe tha tmore carcinogens in our water, in our air, in our children is not the proper step for the Sate of Florida irrespective of any economic growth,” he said. “It will be offset by the increase in cancer.”
“Any of you live in a gas station?,” he said. “Don’t inject cancer into the soil. It’s a simple one.”
The House rejected the amendments on the same day the Broward County Commission was expected to become became the 27th county to vote to ban fracking activities within the county. Kanter Realty has applied to drill an exploratory oil well in the Florida Everglades, just west of the city of Miramar, and the application is under review by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
On Monday, the House Democrats invited a landowner and former fracking industry worker from Pennsylvania to talk about their state’s experience with fracking. They said that 10,000 wells, located in evvery county in the state, have been cited for health and safety violations.
“This will destroy the state like you can’t imagine,” said Ray Kemble, a former fracking industry worker from Dimock, Penn. at a press conference. [Emphasis added]
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