The assault on Florida’s environment continues as a Senate committee passed a bill that will make it easier for companies to use fracking technology to drill for oil and gas in the state.
Lest we forget, the Scott administration has ordered the word “climate change” scrubbed from official speeches and releases. The Governor has politicized the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and weakened their authority to regulate polluters.
Now Scott, his Republican legislators and chronies hope allow drillers to use hydraulic fracturing – fracking, in a state so concerned about protecting its natural resources. Does it make any sense?
The bill would allow blasting deep underground to release more gas and oil. Currently and for some time to come there is plenty of fossil fuels. Falling prices show the oversupply. The money spent on fracking should be used to research and develop alternative fuels.
Those favoring fracking stress that it cuts our use of coal, which is a particularly dirty fuel. Burning coal generates 29% of electricity and contributes to the death of thousands of people annually. Coal pollutants include nitrogen oxide, and sulfur dioxide reduced by shifting from coal. In contrast natural gas is a relatively clean fuel.
Well-run drilling operations, which extract oil and gas from thousands of feet underground, have had a good safety record. But Cracks created by the process may release serious pollutants into groundwater or the atmosphere.
Proponents argue that fracking improves air quality, decreases our dependence on foreign oil, lowers taxes and increases returns on investments.
Opponents contend that air quality improvements are overstated. More research is needed to understand fracking’s potential health impact to people who live near the wells.
A number of residents who live near fracking sites say that their tap water has been contaminated. Some claim water has become bubbly and flammable. Others just don’t trust the drilling companies. They claim problematic studies are hidden and accidents are covered up. They point to corporate misconduct in the tobacco, pharmacy and the automobile industries. They denote recent oil spill disasters.
Fracking requires a huge amount of water and opponents say the process compromises water resources. Tens of millions of gallons of water are involved in both drilling and extraction of gas. Local residents are rarely considered as heavy trucks tear up roads and fracking rigs blight the view. Greed also drives the fracking effort with little or no thought to surrounding communities or their fears. Local residents have questioned whether companies will clean up a drill site after the wells are abandoned.
Other misgivings include the compromised efforts to explore other energy sources, noise, and the spread of toxins around fracking sites.
Wise legislators know that gas and oil are in abundance and that alternative fuels are becoming more affordable and available.
Florida is flat and low and its environment can be easily damaged. Yet the Scott Administration and the Legislature are eager to allow more drilling and development on federal land, state forests, and the coastal waterways.
The Florida Senate and Environmental and Conservation Committee have just moved SB318 recently (fracking Bill). It now goes to the Appropriations subcommittee on General Government.
There is no need for hydraulic fracturing; there is no need for Florida coastal or inland gas and oil exploration. There is a need to leave the State’s magnificent coast, state recreational parks, and the pristine Everglades alone.
Dr. Marc J. Yacht, MD, MPH is a retired public health physician. This column is courtesy of Context Florida.
Marc J. Yacht MD, MPH
Hudson, Florida 34667
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