Legislators fail to protect Floridians from risks of fracking
As we assess the results of the 2019 legislative session, we must confront the fact that legislators have once again failed to pass a comprehensive bill that would effectively ban risky fracking and fracking-like treatments used on oil wells. It is now up to Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to ensure that all fracking-like operations – which pose a threat to our water resources and human health – are addressed.
If you’ve been following the debate on fracking in Florida, you’ve probably heard the term “matrix acidizing.” It’s caused quite a bit of confusion, so the Conservancy of Southwest Florida would like to set the record straight. When the environmental community talks about matrix acidizing, we’re talking about a technique very similar to fracking where acid is used to dissolve Florida’s underground rock formations and increase the flow of oil to a well. We’re talking about a technique designed to alter the geology around the well that may create wormholes up to 20 feet away. This practice uses similar toxic chemicals as fracking operations do and presents many of the same issues as fracking including wasting water, contributing to climate change and threatening water quality.
The time to ban these practices is now. Companies are on the hunt for oil reserves, as evidenced by the destruction of the Big Cypress National Preserve, where Burnett Oil has searched tens of thousands of acres, created hundreds of miles of ruts and cut down over 400 ancient cypress trees.
Unfortunately, comprehensive bills, such as those proposed by Sen. Bill Montford, Sen. Linda Stewart and Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, did not receive the same level of attention as bills that would have allowed continued use of matrix acidizing by Sen. Ben Albritton and Rep. Holly Raschein.
A reasonable cost-benefit analysis shows that it’s good public policy to ban both fracking and matrix acidizing in Florida. Florida only has one-tenth of 1 percent of national oil reserves; not enough to truly affect the price of gas, and these reserves can still be accessed via conventional drilling practices. Although fracturing and matrix acidizing were used in the past, the agencies admit that neither are currently used in Florida.
Here in the Sunshine State, our economy is built on the health of our environment. Floridians want to see our natural resources protected from risky oil activities, as evidenced by the success of Amendment 9 that prohibits offshore drilling within state waters, as well as the over 90 municipalities that have passed a resolution or ordinance asking for fracking and matrix acidizing to be banned in Florida.
DeSantis made a campaign promise to advocate for a ban on fracking in Florida because our “geological makeup of limestone and shallow water resources” makes hydraulic fracturing a “danger to our state that is not acceptable.” The same holds true for the use of matrix acidizing.
We ask the governor to specifically include matrix acidizing among the activities he would like to see banned in Florida. We stand ready, willing and able to meet with administration staff to share information in support of this more comprehensive ban.
To learn more about this issue, visit www.conservancy.org/oil.
Amber Crooks is the environmental policy manager for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, which has a mission of protecting the region’s water, land, wildlife and future. For more information, visit www.conservancy.org.