MONROE COUNTY — Supporters of an anti-fracking bill in the Florida Legislature descended on the Florida Keys last weekend to urge state Rep. Holly Raschein’s constituents to support the ban.
Senate Bill 442 proposes laws to prohibit the oil and gas extraction process throughout the state.
“We are trying to encourage Holly Raschein to sign House Bill 451 [the companion bill to SB 442],” said Brian Lee, lobbyist for Floridians Against Fracking and director of development for ReThink Energy Florida.
Floridians Against Fracking, which is comprised of a few grass-root organizations, spent the weekend canvassing the Keys seeking citizen pledges. The organization’s aim is to promote support for the legislation and hold local elected officials accountable.
The Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee has already voted unanimously to support the bill, which would prohibit “advanced well stimulation treatment,” which is the injection of water, chemicals or sand into rock formations deep underground by means of hydraulic fracturing or acid fracturing. The process causes the fluids to rise to the surface, including both the fracturing fluids and released gas and oil. This “flowback water” is stored in tanks or pits prior to disposal or recycling.
The Senate bill will next go to a committee vice-chaired by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, who has issued public statements in favor of the ban.
Environmentalists are concerned that fracking will emit harmful organic compounds into the air, including benzene, toluene and methane. Each well can be fracked up to 18 times, which can cause seismic activity, and the risk of groundwater contamination from fracking remains for years, opponents say.
“In Florida, fracking is referred to as ‘well stimulation’ because often acid is used to melt rock rather than ‘fracturing,’ but it’s the same concept with worse risks,” Urban Paradise Guild’s Director of Policy Pete Gonzalez said.
Raschein, R-Key Largo, chairs a House subcommittee that will hear the bill.
“We are [canvassing] throughout the state, but the Keys are our main target because Holly Raschein has not yet confirmed she will support these items,” Gonzalez said.
Kate DeLoach, Raschein’s senior district aide, noted that the representative voted against a bill last year that would have expanded fracking in Florida. She did not say if Raschein supports the current legislation. Raschein did not return a phone call before press time.
State Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, said she supports the bill.
“Although I believe we need to seek out independent energy practices, fracking does not make sense for a state whose environment and ecosystem is so valuable to its very existence,” Flores said.
She also supported last year’s fracking ban and publicly posted a tweet #frackiswhack.
“Fracking is a dangerous practice and can bring on wide-ranging repercussions that can damage our health and public safety, as well as our state’s tourism economy,” she said.
In Monroe County, commissioners passed a resolution last June to ban fracking in the Keys. They cited fracking as causing “irreparable danger to the public health, safety and welfare of the residents.”
Floridians Against Fracking plans additional canvassing visits to Monroe County. For more information about the coalition’s efforts, email Gonzalez at firstname.lastname@example.org.