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NO FRACKING: Activists push delegation to ban hydraulic fracturing

By Staff | Oct 21, 2015

BOB PETCHER Brian Lee of ReThink Energy Florida urge state legislators to ban fracking and reject a pro-fracking bill through a press conference during the lunch break of the Lee County Legislative Delegation Meeting at Florida Southwestern State College Wednesday.

The supportive act to ban hydraulic fracturing by several local governments was echoed by activists during a county lawmaking session last week.

Representatives from three environmentally conscious entities held a press conference during the lunch break of the Lee County Legislative Delegation Meeting at Florida Southwestern State College to express opposition to “fracking” and a potential pro-fracking bill in Florida.

The conference was held right outside the building where the delegation conducted local business, listened to presentations about proposed legislative priorities and considered local bills, including one that was introduced by Sen. Garrett Richter and Rep. Ray Rodrigues to allow fracking in the state.

Brian Lee of ReThink Energy Florida told media personnel that the purpose of the conference was to recommend that Florida delegation officials place a ban on fracking instead of considering a bill that would indirectly support it. Activists want legislators to adopt Senate Bill 166, a fracking ban introduced by Rep. Darren Soto and Sen. Dwight Bullard.

Lee referenced those who sported tape over their mouths with the written words “home rule.” He then listed municipal government agencies, such as Bonita Springs and Fort Myers Beach, who passed resolutions for the cause.

“That is to protest the parts of the (Sen.) Garrett Richter and (Rep.) Ray Rodrigues bills that eliminates home rule for creating ordinances to ban fracking within the jurisdiction of a city or a county,” he said. “In fact, over 45 cities and counties have asked the state of Florida for a ban on fracking.”

Dr. Karen Dwyer of Stonecrab Alliance stated that Senate Bill 318 does not embody community concern and that it would “take away local government’s home rule right to protect itself with bans, setbacks, water restrictions” and more.

“We’re at the Lee County Delegation to urge our representatives not to support Sen. Richter’s pro-fracking bill because it would cause more harm than good and take away rather than add protection,” she said. “This bill does not ban fracking, restrict water use, impose buffers, plug abandoned boreholes or significantly increase fines. It is not the strong oil and gas legislation we were promised.”

The conference was just prior to the afternoon portion of local legislative session, held inside FSW’s Nursing Building. Members of the environmental groups made general presentations on the matter to the delegation after the conference.

“Fracking” is known as a process involving natural gas wells where millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground at extremely high pressure to break apart rock and release the gas.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, “fracking” endangers human health and the environment. Studies have shown dangerous levels of toxic air pollution near fracking sites. Fracking has been reported as being suspect in polluted drinking water. Oil and gas production have been linked to increased risk of cancer and birth defects in neighboring areas as well as to a risk of increased seismic activity.

The Floridians Against Fracking coalition, which includes members from a wide range of environmental, health, social justice and business groups, successfully defeated a bill last year that coalition members said would have allowed: 1) fracking operations to really expand in Florida; 2) kept fracking chemicals a secret from the general public; and 3) prohibited local communities from enacting protections to keep fracking out.

“Presently, counties have the power to safeguard public safety, community character and quality of life by drilling in appropriate areas because of zoning issues and incompatible land use,” Dwyer said. “Only local governments can address these issues, not the state.”

Patty Whitehead of Preserve Our Paradise stated fracking would penetrate underground aquifers and possess a potential for contamination. She pushed for solar energy over drilling.

“Where is the solar and all the good work that Governor Crist did for us during his term in office? We need to move forward with allowing solar panels to be installed on people’s roofs and by third party companies,” she said. “This is how we overcome fossil fuels.”

Richard Silvestri of Treasure Coast Progressive Alliance in Fort Pierce was also on hand for the conference and to speak, along with Carl Veaux of Responsible Growth Management Coalition of Lee County and Dwyer, on the issue at the afternoon session of the Delegation.

“The legislators need to avail themselves and educate themselves what the threats are to drinking water,” he said. “There is a good amount of doubt about the safety of fracking in our drinking supplies as it is in our recreational waters. They are bound by the public trust and the Florida constitution to understand what laws they are passing and the impact of it to all the citizens of Florida.”

The environmental groups relayed the same message in Naples the following day at the Collier County Legislative Delegation Meeting, then met with Sen. Bullard and his legislative assistant Aaron McKinney at an anti-fracking house party at the Dwyer residence in North Naples that evening.

Conservancy partners to present Florida Fracking Summit

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Natural Resource Defense Council, Earthjustice, Center for Biological Diversity and Earthworks will present the 2015 Florida Fracking Summit to promote public awareness regarding extreme oil extraction in Florida. The Summit will be held on Oct. 27 and 28 at the Holiday Inn Fort Myers Airport-Town Center.

Visit www.flfrackingsummit.org for more information to register.

Expert speakers will address the potential effects of extreme extraction techniques on air, land, water, and human health. The participants will also discuss current federal and state laws, local government actions around the nation and the future of extreme extraction in Florida.

The oil and gas industry is now using extreme oil extraction techniques in Florida involving the injection of chemicals and large amounts of freshwater to fracture or dissolve oil bearing rock to increase production. These operations include hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and acid stimulation. The “fracking” boom in other parts of the country has led to documented cases of environmental degradation and a growing concern for public health.

Improved extraction and refining technologies have led to a renewed interest in Florida oil. Oil companies are now seeking to explore for oil over thousands of acres of public and private lands, including portions of the Everglades. Currently, extreme extraction techniques are unstudied in Florida, virtually unregulated, and often used in complete secrecy.

With oil exploration proposed for over 170,000 acres of the Everglades, it is important to understand the process of hydraulic fracturing and acid stimulation, current federal and state regulations, and what we can do to safeguard our environment and public health from oil drilling.