2015-03-19 Fracking Bills Update – Action Needed

Two House Fracking bills passed through the Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Tuesday, March 17 and are now headed to next subcommittee meeting. 

HB 1205 – Regulation of Oil and Gas Resources

HB 1209 – Public Records/High-pressure Well Stimulation Chemical Disclosure Registry 

HB 1205 would require a permit and some regulation for “high pressure well stimulation” and HB 1209 would allow the chemicals used in fracking to be hidden behind “trade secrets” provisions.  Overall, the bills are very little improved from last year and should not become law.

Regulation and permitting requirements DO NOT:

  • ensure Florida’s aquifers will not be contaminated by toxic fracking chemicals, hydrocarbons, or flowback containing radioactive materials
  • keep burning gas from spilling CO2 into the atmosphere

Only leaving the dirty fuels in the ground can do that.

There is no need to use this extreme method of extracting gas in Florida.  Solar energy and energy efficiency can provide the power we need, and provide jobs in the bargain without putting our state at risk.  Permitting will only benefit the fossil fuel industry that wants to shackle Florida’s businesses and residents to an outmoded way of life.  Fracking should be banned in Florida and the transition to a clean energy economy should begin.

HB 1205 and HB 1209 are inextricably linked and must be evaluated in that context.

HB 1205 calls for disclosure of the volume of water and the chemicals injected into the ground to frack wells, but provides that the information is kept secret for a year if requested by the well operator [lines 365-367]  Also, HB 1209 allows companies to withhold whichever chemicals they choose from disclosure by claiming they are “trade secrets” and only a court can decide otherwise. (Public records exemptions have to be in stand-alone bills and pass by a 2/3 majority in both the House and Senate; that’s why there are two bills.)  Therefore, the disclosure HB 1205 requires is not comprehensive and residents will be deprived of information they need to protect their own interests.

  • Frackers are not required to report the chemicals they use until 60 days after they start fracking (which the industry considers to be when they’ve completed the drilling, including at least the preliminary horizontal drilling).  People need to know what is going to be put into the ground before it’s injected if they’re to have any chance of acting to protect themselves.
  • Local governments are preempted from adopting more protective ordinances.
  • Frackers are not required to report chemicals that are injected into the ground accidentally.  This provision is a loophole without logic.  If a company puts a material into the ground, they should have to report it whether it was on purpose or not.  If the material was injected and the company didn’t know about it, they should have the burden of proving they didn’t know, and could not reasonably be expected to know, about the injection.  If it’s their well, they should be responsible for what’s in it.
  • The legislature should impose a moratorium on any fracking in the state at least until the EPA report on the impact of fracking on the drinking water resource is completed and studied. There should also be a moratorium on fracking until the study required in section 8 of the bill is completed and analyzed.
  • Citizens have no federal protection under the Safe Water Drinking Act (Congress passed an exemption for fracking in 2005 (the Halliburton loophole).)

The ‘Trade Secrets’ provisions in HB 1209 allow any company to merely mark any chemical it submits to DEP as a ‘trade secret’.  From that point on, DEP is prohibited from releasing any information about the chemical to the public.  The company has to get a court to agree that the ‘trade secret’ actually is one.  But here’s the hook – the judge can only use what is in statute to decide what constitutes a ‘trade secret.’  And the Florida Statutes consider only ethical business practices in regard to ‘trade secrets.’   812.081 (1)(c) defines a ‘trade secret’ as something that is secret, that is of value, that is for use or in use by the business, and that is an advantage to the business.  The court does not consider whether the trade secret is dangerous to public heath.

There should be complete transparency in disclosing the volume and identity of fracking fluids, and full and robust public participation before any fracking activity takes place.  Without full disclosure, public participation is frustrated since citizens won’t even know there’s a problem until it’s too late.  The interests of one industry cannot supersede those of entire communities.

  • There are legitimate concerns about fracking:
    • Volume of water used and (up to 13 million gallons per well)
    • Chemical mixing – spills and transportation accidents
    • Injection of chemicals – migration to groundwater and mobilization of subsurface materials into aquifer
    • Flowback and produced water – spills, treatment, leaching, final disposition of pits – and what happens to the 30% of the injected fluids that are not returned to the surface?
    • Wastewater treatment and waste disposal – contamination of surface and groundwater, insufficient treatment, transportation accidents.

The National Academy of Sciences discovered that homes within 1 kilometer (2/3 mile) were six times more likely to have six times more methane in their drinking water than those farther away.  Ethane levels were 23 times higher.

  • At least 29 dangerously toxic chemicals are used in 652 products for fracking.  They include carcinogens, hazardous air pollutants, and substances regulated under the Safe Water Drinking Act (except for fracking because of the exemption).

Please call your representative and urge them to vote NO on HB 1205 and HB 1209. To find your Representative, go to http://myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/representatives.aspx