Republicans across the United States have largely embraced fracking, a popular method for stimulating a well to extract hard-to-access oil and gas reserves. With this new bill, filed to the Senate last week by Republican Sen. Dana Young, Florida is bucking the trend. Another Republican legislator has filed a companion bill in the state House of Representatives.
Fracking is technically legal under current laws in Florida, but isn't yet happening. This is largely because there are no specific rules for how it should be done. Officials in recent years have repeatedly attempted to establish such regulations.
At the same time, public opposition to fracking has grown. More than 70 counties and cities across the state have passed local ordinances prohibiting the process or supporting a state ban. Environmentalists, communities and local officials are primarily concerned that future fracking activities could threaten the state's precious freshwater sources.
"Our aquifer, which is a main source of fresh water for us, runs across the state and knows no county line," Young said in a statement. "I believe we must act quickly and decisively to protect our fragile environment from incompatible well stimulation practices in our state. The wellbeing of our environment is something that all Floridians care about which is why you'll find my bill to ban fracking in Florida has bipartisan support in both chambers." Young represents a west Florida district that includes the city of Tampa, one of the biggest cities in the state to endorse a statewide fracking ban.
The bill's supporters include three more Republicans—Sen. Jack Latvala, Sen. Keith Perry and Rep. Mike Miller—along with Democrats Sen. Gary Farmer, Rep. Janet Cruz and Rep. Linda Stewart.
Environmental advocates have endorsed the bill. "We are hopeful" it will pass, Lynn Ringenberg, president of the advocacy group Physicians for Social Responsibility, wrote in an email to InsideClimate News. "I've met with Senator Young and she is determined to ban fracking. I think she understands the damage that could result to Florida's fragile environment and public health."
David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council, has criticized the bill. He said in a recent statement: "The United States is the leading producer of oil, natural gas and refined product in the world, and the decades-old technique of hydraulic fracturing has led to lower energy costs for consumers and improvements in the environment. Senator Dana Young's proposed ban could undermine the benefits that Florida families and consumers are seeing today."
New York is the only state with potentially significant frackable resources to ban the practice. Maryland's two-year moratorium ended in October, but some lawmakers there are mulling a permanent ban.