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Monday, 21 September 2015 13:29

Commentary on Fracking

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In 2014, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and several other environmental organizations,
including the Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition and Stone Crab Alliance raised concerns with
the potential contamination of drinking water supplies from oil and drilling fluids associated with
unconventional extraction and spearheaded an effort resulting in the Florida Department of
Environmental Protection revoking the oil drilling permit from the Dan A. Hughes Company due
to permit violations and uncertainty on impacts to water supplies.

Last year in response to public concern, legislation was introduced by two prominent Southwest
Florida Legislators, Representative Ray Rodrigues and Senator Garrett Richter, to regulate
fracking in Florida. On the surface, the public may have believed that such legislation would
have provided greater regulation and oversight of the oil industry but, the effort fell woefully
short in protecting precious public drinking water because the legislation failed to include all
unconventional drilling techniques used in Florida – focusing on those fracturing rock but not
those dissolving it though they both use hazardous chemicals. Furthermore, the legislation
continued to allow the withholding of critical information such as all of the chemicals used under
the veil of "proprietary information".
Fortunately, the legislation failed to move forward when the legislature imploded and
prematurely adjourned session due to an impasse between the House and Senate on the
budget. Similar legislation is likely to be introduced again by the same two sponsors during the
2016 legislative Session.
Unconventional oil extraction, such as acid stimulation and hydraulic fracturing could lead to
contamination of our groundwater aquifers used for drinking water supplies including the
Floridan Aquifer, one of the most productive aquifers in the world. Multiple pathways for potential
contamination have been identified including surface spills, improper disposal of waste, upwards
migration of injection fluids through fractures or nearby improperly plugged abandoned wells, as
well as leaks from improperly constructed well casings.
Fracking has already been documented to have contaminated drinking water wells in
Pennsylvania. The state of New York banned fracking after a seven year review of fracking
determined that “High-volume hydraulic fracturing poses significant adverse impacts to land, air,
water, natural resources and potential significant public health impacts that cannot be
adequately mitigated." No such evaluation has been conducted about using these techniques in
Florida, with its significantly more delicate geology. Legislation introduced in last session would
have caused only fracturing operations, a small subset of unconventional extraction techniques,
to even be studied. Other forms of unconventional extractions would continue with no study or
virtually no state oversight.
Suffice to say that any form of extreme oil extraction, including acid stimulation or hydraulic
fracturing should be strictly prohibited until the Florida Department of Environmental Protection
completes a comprehensive analysis on the potential impacts to surface and ground water
resources. Florida's limestone formations are extremely vulnerable to the toxic brew of acids
and other highly reactive chemicals used by the oil industry to extract oil from deposits under
critical public water supply sources.
Citizens need to contact Representative Rodrigues, Senator Richter, other legislators, and
Governor Scott immediately, to urge them to impose a moratorium on all unconventional oil
extraction. They should also direct the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to
proceed with a comprehensive study of the potential environmental impacts of those techniques
on ground and surface water resources. We cannot be experimenting with our water supplies.
Continuing to allow any form of unconventional oil extraction without sufficient science and
regulatory oversight is doing exactly that.

Ray Judah
Coordinator Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition

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