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Senate Panel Approves Fracking Ban But Longshot In The House

The Florida legislature is again considering banning fracking—the process of extracting oil and natural gas underground. Lawmakers have tussled over the issue in recent years, but proposal sponsor Dana Young says the process is too dangerous to allow in Florida.

The state gets most of its drinking water through underground aquifers. Under those systems is oil and natural gas. But the product has to be brought up through the water to get to the surface, and that, says the Florida Medical Association, poses way too many risks.

“The FMA and the AMA have studied fracking and concluded that Fracking poses a grave health threat," Florida doctor Todd Sack told members of a senate environmental panel, Monday.

He's also with Physician's for Social Responsibility. The big issue is how chemicals are used in the process. Those chemicals are considered trade secrets, and blocked from public view. And Sack says those typically used are known to cause cancer, liver disease and birth defects. He cites a 2015 study from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,

“Doctors will never know what chemicals their patients are drinking. That’s unacceptable. All this is unacceptable for Florida. For three years this legislature tired and failed to pass a bill to disclose the names of the fracking chemicals so our water could be tested. With no safeguards, we must ban Fracking.” 

Sack is just one of a myriad of others testifying in favor of Tampa Republican Senator Dana Young’s fracking bill.

‘It bans fracking of all types. Hydraulic Fracking, acid fracking and matrix acidizing," Young said, outlining the forms of fracking.  But even with widespread support the chief opponent to the bill remains the Florida Petroleum Council. It falls to the Council’s Eric Hamilton to take the most unpopular position in the room.

“By banning fracking you’re sending a message to the rest of the county that fracking is not good. And I think that’s the wrong message.”

But Young and others say that’s exactly the message they want to send. And Tallahassee environmental attorney Randall Denker is telling lawmakers not to fear threats of lawsuits.

“If that was one of your concerns, don’t worry about it. I say this with the confidence of having 40 years of experience in this area, this is not a problem, legally….I hope you will decide the right thing for Florida is a ban.”

But while the unanimous vote in favor of the ban in its first committee hearing is a signal of broader, bipartisan support in the Senate, that same support doesn’t exist in the House, which Young addressed in her final remarks:

“Why should the fact the house isn’t moving a bill stifle the voices of the Florida Senate? We should be able to make our voices heard and you gave us the opportunity and I am so grateful.”

The house has supported efforts to place a moratorium on fracking instead of an outright ban.

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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