Dear FCC Members,
The Florida House of Representatives recently passed HB 191 to establish a regulatory system for “high pressure well stimulation” (HPWS) that would regulate fracking. This bill’s Senate companion, SB 318, has only one committee stop left, Senate Appropriations, before it reaches the Senate Floor. While these bills might seem to provide protections at first glance, they contain a number of deficiencies which place our drinking water and public health at risk. The oil and gas industry is pushing these bills which could potentially result in serious environmental damage and public expense. Please contact the members of the Senate Appropriations Committee (see below) and ask them to vote ‘no’ on SB 318. To use our template, click here.
Fracking uses the high pressure injection of chemicals and large quantities of water into an oil or gas well to fracture underground rock formations and enhance extraction of oil and gas. There are several other fracking-like well stimulation operations likely to be used in Florida that would not be captured under the bill’s definition of HPWS. The bill’s definition of HPWS, proposed regulations, and the study would not apply to these various other fracking-like operations or even fracking when it is done “incidentally” (whatever that might mean). Consequently, only a limited number of well stimulation treatments would be regulated under SB 318 and the results of the proposed study would be very limited in scope. Truly protective legislation would address all types of well stimulation techniques that use hazardous chemicals and large quantities of water.
The bill preempts local governments from banning all types of oil and gas activities, including well stimulation techniques that are unregulated under SB 318, and rescinds any bans that have previously been adopted. This provision violates the principle that local governments should be allowed to govern in a way that is more protective of the environment than state or federal law. Legislation in 2011 deleted or substantially watered down many state land and water management provisions of Florida law based on increasing capability of local governments to provide governmental oversight; this bill diminishes local governments’ authority to govern their own affairs.
The Legislature passed a water bill, focused largely on providing water supply for the present and future, and acknowledging that Florida’s finite water resources will be strained as its population and water consumption continues to grow. It is more important now, than ever, to focus on water conservation. Accordingly, local governments should not be prohibited from banning practices which consume very large amounts of fresh water, removing some of it permanently from the water cycle. A well stimulation operation in Collier County was previously permitted to use 280 million gallons of water per year from a potable water supply source. After use in well stimulation, the water is toxic and is often disposed of via deep well injection where it will never be recycled back into the hydrologic cycle.
The public has shown warranted concern regarding the potentially hazardous chemicals used in well stimulation techniques like fracking, but SB 318 does nothing to alleviate these worries. Under SB 318, well operators are allowed to use different chemicals than the ones they listed in their permit application, and then withhold that information for 60 days after the operation. Information regarding chemicals used in well stimulation operations must be disclosed to the Department of Environmental Protection, but not to the public. This leaves the public, including emergency responders and health professionals, at a serious disadvantage should an accident occur. Wastewater from well stimulation treatments may contain chemicals such as arsenic, benzene (a carcinogen), and radioactive materials.
Approximately 90% of Floridians’ drinking water comes from underground aquifers consisting of naturally fractured and permeable limestone. The aquifers could easily be contaminated should well stimulation fluids be accidentally spilled on the ground or leak underground.
What we know about high pressure well stimulation is troubling, but what we don’t know should be equally troubling.
Please contact the members of the Senate Appropriations Committee and ask them to vote ‘no’ on SB 318 if it is heard in their committee. To use our template, click here.
Senate Appropriations Committee Members