Tallahassee’s “Annual Festival of Whores”

redlightOn Feb. 3 2016, Nathan Crabbe of the Gainesville Sun published an editorial condemning fracking in Florida.  On Feb. 2 in the Sun, columnist Carl Hiassen referred to Tallahassee during the Legislative session as the “red-light district that masquerades as the Capitol building…”  Continuing on:  “It’s the annual festival of whores, when many Florida lawmakers sell out and roll over for high-rolling special interests,…”

Harsh words perhaps,  but note that Hiassen is not being sued.  Note also that this is legal, since the U.S. Supreme Court deemed that buying  legislators is fine and part of the American way.  So it is not surprising that HB 191 has handily passed, and that SB 318 is on the way, even though Floridians Against Fracking and many others are fighting hard.  Scroll

Editorial: Florida should ban fracking

Published: Wednesday, February 3, 2016 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 2, 2016 at 11:20 a.m.

Floridians saw six years ago what happens when their well-being is put at risk for the sake of oil and gas industry profits.

But rather than learn from the mistakes of the BP oil spill, state lawmakers seem determined to repeat them. And this time, instead of polluting the Gulf of Mexico, the drilling practice being considered could poison our drinking water supply.

The Florida House of Representatives last week passed a regulatory framework to authorize hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, in our state. The bill passed by a 73-45 margin, with Rep. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, voting in favor and Rep. Clovis Watson Jr., D-Alachua, voting in opposition.

The bill actually bans fracking until state regulators finish a study in 2017 to determine its impact on the state’s geology and groundwater. But given the lax environmental regulation of Gov. Rick Scott’s administration, anti-fracking advocates are rightly concerned the measure will only put out a welcome mat for fracking.

Fracking involves forcing a mixture of water, chemicals and sand into the ground at high pressure to extract oil or gas. The House rejected amendments that would have required the disclosure of cancer-causing chemicals used in fracking and monitoring of the practice’s effect on pregnant women.

Worse yet, the legislation would prohibit local municipalities from imposing their own bans or regulations. Dozens of cities and counties have already passed resolutions banning fracking or urging the Legislature to do so.

Local officials and residents should be able to decide whether to allow a practice that threatens their health and the environment. Protests in Gainesville and across the state last week showed widespread concern about the dangers of fracking.

There is good reason to worry. Oklahoma and Ohio have seen increases in earthquakes since the expansion of fracking in their states. Yale School of Public Health researchers recently found that many of the more than 1,000 chemicals used in or created by fracking have been linked to reproductive and developmental health problems.

The state of New York banned fracking due to these kind of problems. Yet Florida lawmakers, as they did with water-policy legislation passed and signed into law last month, have shown they’re more beholden to special interests than the public interest.

It’s no wonder why: The oil and gas industry contributed at least $443,000 to the political committees of top Republicans since the last election, according to an analysis by the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee bureau. The top contributor seeks a permit for fracking in Naples.

Fracking legislation is certainly needed. The state was initially unable to stop an oil-drilling operation in Collier County near the Everglades from using a fracking-like process due to a lack of regulatory authority. North Florida might be next to see such operations with a Texas oil company planning to search for oil and gas in the region, as the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

Florida’s hydrology and geology make it particularly prone to the dangers of fracking. The aquifer provides drinking water for the vast majority of Floridians and its waters flow through the springs that are the environmental jewels of our region.

The Legislature should ban fracking outright, or at least allow local governments to do so, rather than putting the public’s well-being at risk. Visit www.gainesville.com/lawmakers to find contact information for local lawmakers, and encourage our state senators not to follow the House’s lead.

The potential costs of fracking far outweigh oil and gas industry profits. If we thought an oil spill that contaminated the some of our beaches was bad, just imagine the catastrophe for Floridians if the water beneath our feet was poisoned.

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