Eric Draper, Audubon Florida Executive Director, hand-delivered a copy of the “Stop Fracking in Florida” petition to Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-Ft. Myers) on Wednesday, February 5, 2014. As sponsor of two bills (HB 71 & HB 157) dealing with the disclosure of information associated with the hydraulic fracturing process, it is important for Rep. Rodrigues to know that close to 2000 Audubon members have concerns about this drilling technique and the full disclosure of chemicals used in the process.
When asked about the motivation for filing these bills, Rep. Rodrigues told a compelling story about reading several articles in the Ft. Myers News-Press in October 2012 about impending fracking projects coming to that area of the state. Recognizing that Florida was indeed drawing the attention of the fracking industry, the Representative wanted a registry in place to track where the wells were located and what chemicals would be in use to conduct the fracking process. Coupled with that effort was a public records exemption that would grant the industry protection when trade secrets were at risk. And that’s where the problems started.
In a state known for “Sunshine Laws” it seems contrary to exempt the oil and gas industry from disclosing what chemicals they are pumping into the ground. Proponents of HB 71 and HB 157 believe the two bills must be linked to sustain any legal challenges from the industry. Audubon questions how broad that exemption might be and whether the registry is left with any credible information when all is said and done.
Audubon opposes fracking in our state and particularly in Southwest Florida which is under consideration now.
We do believe in full and complete disclosure of information though and support the idea of having Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) maintain a valid registry of fracking wells. The problem with HB 71 at this point is that any such registry created will not contain the concentrations of chemicals used in a given well and in fact, DEP is prohibited from even asking the question.
Rep. Rodrigues is willing to discuss amending this year’s bill to include chemical concentrations but the main battleground will be HB 157, which grants the public records exemption for industry trade secrets. These are the issues your policy team will be working on as Rep. Rodrigues clearly left the door open for further discussion. His bills do not allow or enable fracking to take place in Florida but he knows now that Audubon opposes fracking and will not hesitate to challenge a fracking permit should Collier County explorations lead to further exploitation of our resources.