Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is a process whereby millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals are pumped underground to break apart the rock in the hopes of releasing gas or oil. In southwest Florida, the amount of oil recoverable through such a process is miniscule and puts our water at high risk of contamination. Furthermore, the process itself undermines the ground that supports our homes, roads, hospitals, schools, and businesses.
The waste products from fracking are incredibly dangerous and difficult to process. There is no independent test that can verify that fracking is safe because of our unique geology; the byproducts are unpredictable and always different for each fracking attempt. Biologists, hydrologists, chemists, and geologists warn of the aftermath of fracking accidents and we are seeing the aftershocks through communities across North America.
The State Legislature cannot, in good faith, allow activities which, after scientific study, have shown to cause plausible risks to our long-term economic success, on public safety, and on public health.
In Florida, the environment IS the economy. Tourism and agriculture, the two biggest drivers of our economy, are dependent on a healthy environment including high quality water resources. In addition to the possible impacts on the health and welfare of our citizens, environmental threats posed by fracking will hurt tourism, agriculture, fishing, real estate, and many related industries across our state.
I am in favor of a statewide ban on fracking. Using fracking and fracking-like techniques in southwest Florida is not worth the risk to the environment, especially given the relatively small amount of poor-quality oil it would produce. Until such a ban is legislated, I support the continued right of local jurisdictions to prohibit fracking in their municipalities given the public welfare and economic risks involved.
Nearly three dozen counties and 50 local governments (which represent approximately 74 percent of the state’s population) have already taken steps to express their opposition to and in some cases to outright prohibit fracking in Florida. The City of Bonita Springs (Ordinance No 15-17) has taken a strong and definitive stance to legally block fracking in their jurisdiction. I applaud their action.
Some elected officials, including my opponent Kathleen Passidomo, with her support of House Bills 1205 and 191 (in 2015 and 2016 respectively), have supported measures to remove home rule on this issue. They attempted to prohibit a local government’s discretion to stop fracking. Fortunately, these legislative efforts have so far been unsuccessful.
More recently, in March 2018, a Florida Senate Bill (SB 462) that would have actually banned fracking died in the Senate Appropriations Committee. This was a bi-partisan bill sponsored by a Republican with five Republican and several Democratic co-sponsors. Unfortunately District 28’s current Senator, Kathleen Passidomo, was not among the co-sponsors.
She apparently wants to see more study on fracking impacts, even though the fracking debate has been going on here in Florida for at least the last four years. Despite her statement last November that legislators had plenty of time to order an independent study, I am not aware of any such study having been commissioned by her or anyone else in the legislature to date. This is another example of prolonged legislative inaction on an issue of great concern to Floridians—kicking the can down the road!
I will work to promote energy policies in this state that leverage renewable energy alternatives, particularly solar. We need to be investing in future and emerging energy technologies for the sake of our economy and for the health and welfare of our citizens, not in risky and unnecessary ventures that pose unacceptable, long-term risks to our environment and our economy.