Activists push delegation to ban fracking
The supportive act to ban hydraulic fracturing by several local governments was echoed by activists during a county lawmaking session on Wednesday.
Representatives from three environmentally conscious entities held a press conference during the lunch break of the Lee County Legislative Delegation Meeting at Florida Southwestern State College to express opposition to “fracking” and a potential pro-fracking bill in Florida.
The conference was held right outside the building where the delegation conducted local business, listened to presentations about proposed legislative priorities and considered local bills, including one that was introduced by state Sen. Garrett Richter, R-District 23, and state Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R- District 76, to allow fracking in the state.
Brian Lee of ReThink Energy Florida told media personnel that the purpose of the conference was to recommend that Florida delegation officials place a ban on fracking instead of considering a bill that would indirectly support it.
Lee referenced those who sported tape over their mouths with the written words “home rule.” He then listed municipal government agencies, such as Bonita Springs and Fort Myers Beach, who passed resolutions for the cause.
“That is to protest the parts of the (Sen.) Garrett Richter and (Rep.) Ray Rodrigues bills that eliminates home rule for creating ordinances to ban fracking within the jurisdiction of a city or a county,” he said. “In fact, over 45 cities and counties have asked the state of Florida for a ban on fracking.”
Dr. Karen Dwyer of Stonecrab Alliance stated that Senate Bill 318 does not embody community concern and that it would “take away local government’s home rule right to protect itself with bans, setbacks, water restrictions” and more.
“We’re at the Lee County Delegation to urge our representatives not to support Sen. Richter’s pro-fracking bill because it would cause more harm than good and take away rather than add protection,” she said. “This bill does not ban fracking, restrict water use, impose buffers, plug abandoned boreholes or significantly increase fines. It is not the strong oil and gas legislation we were promised.”
The conference was just prior to the afternoon portion of local legislative session, held inside FSW’s Nursing Building. Members of the environmental groups made general presentations on the matter to the delegation after the conference.
“Fracking” is known as a process involving natural gas wells where millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground at extremely high pressure to break apart rock and release the gas.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, “fracking” endangers human health and the environment. Studies have shown dangerous levels of toxic air pollution near fracking sites. Fracking has been reported as being suspect in polluted drinking water. Oil and gas production have been linked to increased risk of cancer and birth defects in neighboring areas as well as to a risk of increased seismic activity.
The Floridians Against Fracking coalition, which includes members from a wide range of environmental, health, social justice and business groups, successfully defeated a bill last year that coalition members said would have allowed 1) fracking operations to really expand in Florida, 2) kept fracking chemicals a secret from the general public; and 3) prohibited local communities from enacting protections to keep fracking out.
“Presently, counties have the power to safeguard public safety, community character and quality of life by drilling in appropriate areas because of zoning issues and incompatible land use,” Dwyer said. “Only local governments can address these issues, not the state.”
Patty Whitehead of Preserve Our Paradise stated fracking would penetrate underground aquifers and possess a potential for contamination. She pushed for solar energy over drilling.
“Where is the solar and all the good work that Gov. Crist did for us during his term in office? We need to move forward with allowing solar panels to be installed on people’s roofs and by third party companies,” she said. “This is how we overcome fossil fuels.”
Richard Silvestri of Treasure Coast Progressive Alliance in Fort Pierce was also on hand for the conference and to speak, along with Carl Veaux of Responsible Growth Management Coalition of Lee County and Dwyer, on the issue at the afternoon session of the Delegation.
“The legislators need to avail themselves and educate themselves what the threats are to drinking water,” he said. “There is a good amount of doubt about the safety of fracking in our drinking supplies as it is in our recreational waters. They are bound by the public trust and the Florida constitution to understand what laws they are passing and the impact of it to all the citizens of Florida.”