A pair of Tampa Bay Republicans filed bills in the House and Senate over the past week that would slap Florida with a full-on fracking ban come.
Fracking, shorthand for hydraulic fracturing, is a method of natural gas extraction that sees drillers inject a concoction of water and various chemicals into fault lines deep underground and at high pressure to force fossil fuels to the surface for collection.
Treasure Island state Rep. Kathleen Peters filed the House version, HB 237, last week, and Tampa state Sen. Dana Young followed it up with a Senate companion, SB 462, on Monday, the first day of interim committee weeks before the 2018 Legislative Session kicks off in January.
Their bills would prohibit all forms of “advanced well stimulation treatments,” meaning no high-pressure injections aimed at cracking the bedrock in search of black gold. Acid fracking – similar to hydraulic fracturing, with chemicals subbed in for water pressure to break through the rocks – is also expressly banned in the bills.
Non-fracking wells can carry on as usual, even if cleaning and maintenance requires operators to up the water pressure or use chemicals to restore ground permeability. So long as the pressure or pH doesn’t put a crack in the bedrock, it won’t be affected.
This isn’t Young’s or Peters’ first rodeo with fracking bills, which has become one of the major issues dividing Republican lawmakers the past few years.
Some lawmakers, including Republican Reps. Mike Miller and Ray Rodrigues, say a ban would be “foolish” before a scientific study on how fracking could affect the Sunshine state, while others say they’ve seen enough from the states that embraced fracking – or heard enough from their constituents – and want the ban on the books post-haste.
Young fought for the ban in the spring, but the measure sputtered out in the middle of the 2017 Legislative Session mainly due to the study-first camp.
Young was on the pro-study train in the 2016 Legislative Session when she was in the House, but in 2017 was trying to make good on a promise she made to voters during her campaign against Bob Buesing last fall.
Peters also backed the study bill, sponsored by former Naples Republican Sen. Garett Richter, and got pawed at by her 2016 opponent as well.
“The only bill that was presented to any legislator to stop fracking in Florida was that bill,” Peters said at the time. ”So in my opinion, anyone who opposes that bill, then supports what happened and now anyone can come into this state and do fracking. Anyone who voted no was absolutely irresponsible, because we do not have a moratorium on it.”
While fracking has unlocked wells of energy leading to rock-bottom natural gas prices, it has also been implicated in ground and surface water contamination and is likely a direct cause of earthquakes, including the string of shakers that vaulted Oklahoma well past West Coast states in total number of earthquakes in the 2010s.
Pro-fracking groups rebut those claims, but the scientific community has been consistent in linking the drilling technique to environmental damage.
Anti-fracking groups say Florida’s aquifer and the soluble limestone foundation much of the peninsula rests on would make the state even more vulnerable to damage from fracking, especially compared to low-population states such as South Dakota.