OSFR Support Ban Fracking Bills Op-Ed Appears in 3 Newspapers Nov. 22

The Lake City Reporter,  Ocala Star Banner, and the St Augstine Record all published OSFR’s latest opinion editorial Sunday, Nov. 22.  This op-ed urges the legislative leaders to put ban-fracking bills into committee, something which seems very logical, since so many counties and cities have acted to support  fracking bans.

Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson and Jim Tatum: Fracking politics at work — or not — in Tallahasse”

 By Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson and Jim Tatum
Published: Sunday, November 22, 2015 at 6:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 20, 2015 at 5:23 p.m.

Fracking is in the news in Florida. This may seem odd, as Florida is not anywhere near being a large oil-producing state. Fracking is in the forefront in Florida because a growing number of its citizens are becoming informed of its threats and its dangers and they want to stop it before it is too late.

Hydraulic fracturing and acid well stimulation are techniques for breaking up oil- and gas-laden shale and limestone deposits in dried up wells or potential new wells to stimulate fossil fuel production. The process is fraught with risk of methane leaks, water contamination, earthquakes and poison residues but is used to squeeze more oil out of wells.

So where are the ban-fracking bills? They are there in Tallahassee, several senators and representatives have sponsored them, but they may never be voted on. The problem is that the Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner or possibly Senate President-elect Joe Negron have not put them into committee. Until they do so, a huge percentage of the Florida population will not have a chance to have their wishes represented in Tallahassee.

Sources close to the legislative workings have said that Gov. Rick Scott would veto any ban-fracking bill if it were to pass, but that should not stop the democratic process.

Something is wrong with our system if two individuals have the power to arbitrarily prevent a bill supported by a large proportion of our voters from even being considered in our Legislature.

A group called Floridians Against Fracking is helping counties and cities take steps to protect themselves from this dangerous and unnecessary practice. To date, a total of 18 counties and 37 cities are committed to a resolution to ban fracking in their jurisdiction or to support a statewide anti-fracking bill. This number is growing weekly.

In the Legislature, a total of 56 representatives, or 40 percent of the House, represent areas that oppose fracking in Florida. A total of 27 senators, or a whopping 67 percent of the Senate, represent areas not wanting fracking.

These percentages represent 8,384,654 people, or 43.3 percent of the population of our state. It is ironic that the two sponsors of deceptive pro-fracking bills both represent districts where the populace has spoken out against fracking. They are not representing their constituents in Tallahassee.

A moment crucial to the well-being of our state is approaching in Tallahassee, and that is the confirmation of our new Senate president, Sen. Joe Negron, a Republican from Stuart. His District 32 includes three counties — Martin, Palm Beach, and St. Lucie — which have supported fracking bans. It would seem that Senate President-elect Negron would surely allow this important legislation to at least be voted on in committee.

The petroleum industry is pushing two bills (HB 191 and SB 318), which pretend to tighten regulations on fracking but in reality are written to deceive and actually help pave the way for fracking. They also insinuate a moratorium on fracking until a study is completed. There is no moratorium in these bills whatsoever.

If these bills, sponsored by legislators also from areas wanting to ban fracking, are allowed into committee, it is only fitting that opposing bills supported by so many Floridians, also be allowed to be heard.

— Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson is policy director at Our Santa Fe River, Inc., and Jim Tatum is historian. Both live in Fort White.

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