Environmentalists focus on fracking bills

Oil companies fracking in the open sea. 
Photo courtesy of asmaa.org

There may be trouble in paradise. It was a short-lived victory for many Floridians after the passing of Amendment 9 Nov.9. It prohibits both offshore oil and gas drilling, sometimes known as fracking – a process whereby a mixture of water and chemicals is forced deep underground at high pressure to release natural gas.

While this ban brought a sense of hope for environmental groups in the Sunshine State, offshore drilling may still be possible despite the recent ban.

The amendment only protects state waters, which extend 3 nautical miles off the coast, but the state has no direct control over the 200 miles of federal waters.

Big oil companies like Exxon Mobil, BP, Texaco and Shell are all anticipating drilling permits from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management after seismic surveys locate fertile fields.

Environmentalists worry about the possibility of fracking fluids polluting groundwater in Florida, where slabs of limestone could seep upward and pollute the aquifer that South Florida uses for drinking water.

Also concerns of another major oil spill like the 2010 Deep Water Horizon explosion, which dumped more than 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, have many worried.

While supporter say fracking increases production and decreases energy costs, the opposition argues that it causes great harm to marine life.

“Impacts to wildlife have received less study, but these chemicals pose a threat to marine life. During fracking, a significant amount of the fracking fluid returns to the surface and is either discharged into the ocean or transported for onshore ground injection. At sea, these chemicals enter the marine ecosystem,” according to Beachapedia.org

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced several changes to water policy on Jan.9, shortly after being sworn in. DeSantis signed an executive order 19-12 (Achieving More Now For Florida’s Environment), implementing major reforms to ensure the protection of Florida’s environment and water quality.

The order delegates $2.5 billion over the next four years for Everglades restoration and protection of water resources. It is the highest level of funding for restoration in Florida’s history. 

“Our water and natural resources are the foundation of our economy and our way of life in Florida. The protection of water resources is one of the most pressing issues facing our state,” DeSantis said.

Growing concerns about the potential harm fracking could case have prompted several lawmakers to take immediate action.

The health impacts include respiratory problems, birth defects, blood disorders, cancer and nervous system impacts,” according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

During the 2018 session, two committees approved a Senate version, while a House version was never heard. The bills are filed for consideration during the legislative session that got underway earlier this week. 

With the support of the governor and his close ties to the president, many have great hopes to see fracking finally banned in the state of Florida.