JENNIFER HECKER: SEPARATING MYTHS FROM REALITY ON FRACKING IN FLORIDA

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  • GUEST AUTHOR
  • JANUARY 21, 2016

Only two years ago, the first hydraulic fracturing (aka “fracking”) operation occurred in Florida without state authorization.

The state was unable to stop the driller from using the technique, obtain and disclose critical information, or hold the driller financially responsible. This made it evident that Florida’s laws and regulations are inadequate.

With lawmakers weighing several oil bills, it is important to address the misleading claims of industry groups that are trying to thwart meaningful legislation.

The Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) is supporting flawed oil bills (HB 191/SB 318) and asserted in a recent op-ed that hydraulic fracturing increases property values based on three examples in other states. However, a 2015 American Economic Association study shows that the property value of homes relying on groundwater (such as here in Florida) drops when located near oil wells. Moreover, Florida’s economy is largely based on tourism, with our state contributing less than 0.1 percent to overall U.S. domestic oil production.

Real estate studies confirm that property values in Collier, Lee and Charlotte are tied to clean water. Therefore, the prospect of Florida residents enjoying higher property values or receiving any financial gains from unconventional extraction is very unlikely.

AIF also criticized a Johns Hopkins School of Public Health study that found a correlation between higher premature birth rates near active wells. AIF claims that the authors failed to account for other contributing factors. However, careful review of the study reveals researchers did account for those factors.

Regardless, there is an ever-growing number of studies from top universities describing associations between drilling and harmful health effects. The website of Concerned Health Professionals lists 103 of them.

AIF also disregarded risks associated with fracking wastewater, claiming that disposal is not fracking.

Obviously, the fracking wastewater would not be produced otherwise.

State records show that the fracking operation in southwest Florida resulted in 203,100 gallons of toxic wastewater being trucked across the state for disposal near Miami. Accidents during the transport and improper disposal of fracking wastewater have been documented around the nation presenting significant water contamination risks.

Misinformation will continue to surface but consider the source. As an environmental nonprofit, we can speak truth to power to tell you that the proposed AIF- supported legislation (HB 191/SB 318) would leave public health and water supplies at unacceptable risk.

Legislation should be passed this session to suspend the use of all oil-well stimulation until there is rigorous and independent Florida-specific science to outline their potential risks. Only then can science-based decisions be made and regulations crafted.

We cannot let the profit of a few come before the basic health and safety of the public and the protection of our water. These bills fall short of providing the protections needed. Floridians deserve more.

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Jennifer Hecker is Director of Natural Resource Policy, Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Column courtesy of Context Florida.