Fracking in Florida
Fracking is unregulated in Florida so the fracking industry is quickly pursuing oil ventures and has already obtained two permits in Calhoun and Collier county. Starting in 2013, after the discovery of unpermitted unconventional fracking operations by a Texas-based oil company in Collier county, we’ve been mobilizing a battle for a fracking ban. The drilling permits could easily turn into fracking operations by the end of 2018, so the fight for a statewide fracking ban has kicked into high gear.
Over the last few years Food & Water Watch has partnered with local activists, community leaders and residents from across the state to form the Floridians Against Fracking coalition. Together we have been building the movement against fracking and the oil and gas industry. In 2013 and 2014 legislation to set up rules around chemical disclosure was introduced in the House and the Senate, but both were defeated. By 2015 and 2016 both pro-fracking and fracking ban legislation was introduced. The pro-fracking legislation would have set up a rule making process for fracking and allowed companies to keep chemicals as trade secrets while the fracking ban bills would have prevented any form of hydraulic fracturing, including the type of fracking that would most likely occur in Florida (matrix acidization) from occurring statewide. In 2016 and 2017 legislation to ban fracking was introduced yet again and steadily gained key legislative support.
To date, 90 counties and cities had passed ordinances or resolutions in opposition to fracking in the state (communities representing almost 75% of Florida residents). After three years of beating back pro-fracking legislation, the 2017 legislative session became the first where a bill to ban fracking was introduced with bipartisan support. By the end of session, over 150 businesses had also come forward in support of the ban.
Florida’s Own Standing Rock
Florida has also faced high profile and high stakes pipeline fights. In 2017, Spectra Energy Corporation, NextEra Energy Inc., Duke Energy and Florida Power & Light completed the construction of the Sabal Trail Transmission pipeline. The pipeline cuts through 13 of Florida’s counties, through 177 acres of conservation areas, and more than 700 bodies of water. The EPA approved the project in 2015, despite admitting the inevitable negative impacts to the Floridan Aquifer which provides drinking water to millions of people.
The pipeline also runs through the habitats of the endangered Florida native gopher tortoise and would saddle sinkhole prone rock structures that are prone to collapsing. FWW generated thousands of letters to FERC to ask that they reject the pipeline and followed the lead of grassroots opponents who asked for a more comprehensive study of the dangers the pipeline posed for the region. An extension is now being built from the Orlando area to Martin County.
Big Energy Campaign Finance
Dirty energy money has also been a big problem in the Florida legislature and during the 2017 fracking fight, Big Oil flooded certain elected officials with campaign donations. Over the past five years, oil and gas, utility and other affiliated energy industry political action committees (PACs) and employees gave $12.0 million to Florida state legislators and major political parties. The donations were heavily weighted to Republicans, with five times the campaign contributions going to the Republican Party and Republican legislators than the Democratic ones ($10.0 to $2.0 million, respectively). We wrote a report delineating the breakdown of dirty energy money in relation to the fracking ban legislation. Check it out.
Follow our organizer Michelle Allen on twitter for daily updates on our work in Florida. Click here.
Connect with a Florida Organizer
Michelle Allen, Senior Florida Organizer
Michelle Allen is the Senior Florida Organizer at Food & Water Watch.
Jorge Aguilar, Southern Region Director
Jorge Aguilar is the Southern Region Director, and oversees Food & Water Watch’s campaigns in the Southeast region. He has worked to defeat major water privatization projects in Florida and led the successful legislative campaign in Maryland to ban the use of arsenic in chicken production.