Pensacola, FL — On Wednesday, environmental and water advocacy groups gathered at the Escambia government complex to call on Governor DeSantis to fully investigate the 12 recent earthquakes near the Florida-Alabama border that may be linked to oil and gas operations. They also demanded the passage of a statewide fracking ban and pause on approvals of new oil drilling permits.
Geologists, the advocates claimed, have known for years that oil drilling in the region extending from Southern Alabama to the Jay Field in Escambia County may be prone to man-made earthquakes as a result of injecting oil drilling waste underground. But Florida officials have done and said little publicly about the flurry of tremors that hit the region in the past month.
“Although we know we’ve had earthquakes in the past, the most recent in 1997, it’s disturbing that over the last several months we have the amount of earthquakes we’ve had in such relative frequency to each other,” shared Earth Action Director Mary Gutierrez, a resident of Escambia County.
In 2016, the U.S. Geological Society confirmed that oil and gas operations were indeed inducing seismic activity in places like Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Ohio. As far back as 1999, the USGS found some evidence that a series of tremors in the Florida Panhandle could be related to oil operations. In 2015, the USGS also added the region to the list of areas likely to see an uptick in tremors from oil waste injection wells.
“We believe that It is highly probable that the earthquakes have occurred for a variety of reasons – oil and gas extraction, plate activities, and deep-well injection or a combination of some or all,” said Earth Action Director Mary Gutierrez. “Out of precaution, state agencies should put a pause on the issuing of any new permits in the area. Our group has filed a petition for an administrative hearing to challenge an intent to issue for additional drilling in the Jay area.”
Santa Rosa County has the most oil drilling in the state of Florida and advocates have warned that the potential introduction of fracking, a more intensive form of oil drilling that uses huge volumes of toxic chemicals, could exacerbate the quakes and endanger water resources.
“Even though Governor DeSantis has stated he will oppose the expansion of the oil industry in Florida, he has remained totally silent on these troubling earthquakes,” said Jorge Aguilar, the southern region director for Food & Water Watch. “It would be an abdication of duty to pledge to ban fracking during the campaign season and do nothing to hold the industry accountable now.”
Marybeth Dunn, the executive director of the Florida chapter of the Physicians for Social Responsibility says an overwhelming body of research has warned about the wastewater from oil and gas exploration.
“Our compendium on medical and scientific literature on fracking shows that the risks of earthquakes can continue to rise for years after waste injection and cannot be prevented through “proper” fracking protocols or by solely limiting the rate or volume of injected fluid,” Dunn added.” State officials should investigate and take all precautions to protect Florida residents.”
The event was one of multiple rallies across the state on Governor DeSantis’ 100th day in office urging him to call on the legislature to pass a stalled bill HB7029 that would ban fracking in Florida.
Floridians Against Fracking is a coalition of over 55 environmental, health and social justice groups supporting a ban on fracking in Florida.