The following op-ed appeared today, Feb. 4 2017, in the Pensacola News Journal.
It has been submitted to several other newspapers throughout the state, and was inspired by an opinion piece in the Sun Sentinel by Brewster Bevis of Associated Industries of Florida, in which he gives misleading information regarding fracking.
Viewpoint: Any form of fracking is unsafe
Jim Tatum 4:15 p.m. CT Feb. 3, 2017
Recent opinion pieces in newspapers around Florida have given a very skewed and misleading overview of the fracking issue in Florida. Indeed, the oil industry has been in Florida since 1943, but fracking has only occurred once in 2013, and that resulted in a fine by the Florida DEP.
The issue now in Tallahassee is not about drilling for oil using conventional methods, it is about fracking, which involves injecting water, sand and chemicals deep into the earth to break up rock in order to extract oil and gas.
There is no lack of science, as there have been hundreds of studies done, with the results that there are many documented cases of well contamination, methane leaks both underground and into the atmosphere, and many earthquakes, caused by injecting wastewater back into the earth.
Fracking is not necessary to our economy, as we have an oil glut in the U.S. which has driven down prices and caused the fracking boom in North Dakota and Oklahoma to turn into a bust. Oil companies are also preparing for the inevitable transition to sustainable fuels and divestment from fossil fuels.
One of the many problems associated with fracking is that it takes millions of gallons of water to frack a well. Strong lobbyists garnered exemptions from the Clean Water Act so that under the guise of “trade secrets,” drillers are not required to disclose the chemicals injected through our aquifers and into the earth. It is no secret that many of these are deadly, proven carcinogens.
A serious problem sometimes overlooked is the disposal of wastewater left over after the fracking operation. Cases have been found where it has been trucked off-site, sometimes for many miles, and dumped illegally into creeks and ditches.
Floridians have spoken loudly and clearly that they do not want fracking in Florida. One proof is that they defeated a pro-fracking bill last year, but even stronger proof is that there is a long list of counties, cities and municipalities in Florida which have passed ordinances and resolutions to oppose fracking. The solid number is that 77.4 per cent of the population of Florida is represented by cities and counties which oppose pro-fracking regulatory bills.
Private property rights are an issue here. The pro-fracking bills of last year eliminated home rule, and would have disallowed a local municipality to prohibit fracking in their jurisdiction. Even more egregious, if an oil company owns the mineral rights to your property, they have the right to drill right next to your home and you can do nothing to stop them.
So, in sum, fracking is new to Florida and has been tried only once. There are hundreds of studies by independent university groups which have found fracking to contaminate wells and cause methane leaks into the air and into groundwater. Many of the undisclosed chemicals are known carcinogens, and injecting the wastewater back underground often causes large-scale earthquakes. Millions of Floridians have spoken clearly by enacting local bans, and now they want a state ban.
Jim Tatum is historian for Our Santa Fe River, Inc. a non-profit from Fort White, Florida. He resides in Fort White.