A group of Florida lawmakers has given the okay to a bill that would set up disclosure rules should companies decided to start drilling for oil using hydraulic fracturing. But the measure faces an uphill fight against environmentalist groups.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the practice of pushing a mix of water and chemicals into the ground in order to fracture the bedrock and get access to an underground reserve of natural resources. And while fracking hasn’t been used in Florida yet, Estero Republican Representative Ray Rodrigues said he thinks it could begin soon.
“I’m not here to get into a debate over whether fracturing is something we should pursue in the state or not. What I’ve recognized is that it’s something that’s permitted. So the question is, under the current permissions do we want to know what chemicals are disclosed or not,” Rodrigues said.
Rodrigues is sponsoring a bill that would require companies to disclose information about what types of chemicals they’re using for any fracking projects in the state, and would require the Department of Environmental Protection to make that information available to the public through an online database. But Rodrigues is also filing a companion bill that would provide a public records exemption for what are called “trade secrets.” That’s what’s got environmentalists like The Sierra Club’s David Cullen worried.
“ It allows oil or gas drillers to make whatever they want as secret when they hand it over to the DEP and that prohibits DEP from publishing that information unless the circuit court says that qualifies as a trade secret. Well, how would a judge arrive at that decision,” Cullen said.
Cullen and other environmentalists say it’s important to know all the chemicals companies use, regardless of whether they’re trade secrets, so members of the public will be able to tell if the chemicals are responsible for any negative health affects.