Huge Fracking Deal: Republican Lawmakers Lead Charge To Ban Fracking in Florida

(EnviroNews USA Headline News Desk) — Tallahassee, Florida — Seven Florida legislators introduced a bipartisan bill (SB 442) to ban fracking in the Sunshine State on January 24, 2017. Sen. Dana Young, (R-Tampa) filed the new proposal alongside Senators Keith Perry (R-Gainesville), Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater), Linda Stewart (D-Orlando), and Gary Farmer (D-Broward Co.) The companion House Bill is sponsored by Rep. Mike Miller (R-Orlando) and Rep. Janet Cruz (D-Tampa).

In a press conference, the lawmakers expressed they were seeking to end Florida’s debate on fracking. In co-sponsor Gary Farmer’s words, with “just this collection of folks, you can see that this is an issue that transcends politics.”

Fracking has been a prominent topic in Florida over the last few years and in 2016, a bill regulating fracking passed in the House but died in the Senate. That bill, HB 191, did not allow local bans on fracking or require fracking chemicals to be disclosed. A similar bill, HB 1205, passed the House but failed in the Florida Senate in 2015.

Sierra Club Florida explains in a press release, that intense public opposition to fracking backs up this bipartisan bill and, “Since last year, close to 90 counties and cities have shown their support for an oil and gas fracking ban citing the risk of water contamination.”

“Fracking,” short for hydraulic fracturing, is a method of drilling that involves, in part, injecting water, sand, and chemicals into the ground at extremely high pressure to release fossil fuels.

Fracking is controversial because of its destructive impact on the surrounding environment and human health. This proposed fracking ban would provide further protection to Florida’s waterways and inhabitants by also outlawing acid fracturing and matrix acidizing, wherein acid is injected or etched into the ground. The Orlando Sentinel reports Sen. Young said at the press conference, “This bill is concise and straightforward: It bans fracking of all types in Florida.”

According to Orlando Weekly, Florida Petroleum Council Executive Director David Mica said banning fracking will be detrimental to Floridians and “the decades-old technique of hydraulic fracturing has led to lower energy costs for consumers and improvements in the environment.”

He did not specify the “improvements to the environment” he was referring to and the possible surface-level economic benefit of fracking is undercut when externalities such as the cost of explosions, earthquakes, water and air pollution, and human illness are considered, as rampant health problems have been reported near chemical-laden fracking sites.

In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report explaining how fracking can impact and contaminate drinking water resources. Sierra Club Florida says this report’s list of fracking chemicals includes over 200 that are “associated with cancer, immune system effects, changes in body weight, changes in blood chemistry, cardiotoxicity, neurotoxicity, liver and kidney toxicity, and reproductive and developmental toxicity.”

Florida Frack Job — Photo: Miami Herald

Vermont, New York and Maryland have passed fracking bans, along with individual counties throughout the U.S. In contrast, in 2015, Texas and Oklahoma passed regulations preventing localized bans on fracking and in 2016, a Colorado Supreme Court also overruled local fracking bans. Notably, Denton, Texas, known as “the birthplace of fracking” was at the center of the ban on fracking bans controversy in 2015, when the residents voted to outlaw the practice, but were then quickly overruled by the state legislature. EnviroNews reported influencers from the oil and gas industry and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporation-funded organization of legislators whose backers include ExxonMobile and the Koch brothers, were influential in pushing through this legislation.

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