Tallahassee says Frack You, Miami!

by Sam Van Leer, founder of Urban Paradise Guild

If you don’t know about Fracking yet, you need to know right now.

That’s because members of the Florida Senate are voting on it TODAY, 1/25/2016, and you have just a few hours to make your voice heard. If you don’t make 4 phone calls ASAP (see details at the bottom), the voices that will be heard are from huge corporations that spend millions to dictate policies that harm all of us.

Fracking has a horrible reputation for good reasons

It is the hydraulic fracturing of rock using toxic chemicals to release natural gas, which is sold to us on the pretense that this is “clean” energy.

The reality is completely different. There’s nothing clean about it. Even where it is regulated, the damage it does is terrible. The cost in human suffering and environmental damage is massive. Fracking is toxic. Fracking is documented to cause a range of conditions from asthma to cancer.

Known carcinogens are common. Even inhaled contamination is a huge factor. A study found residents within a kilometer of a well had up to twice the number of health problems as those living at least 2 kilometers away (US News). Groundwater and well-water is contaminated. Surface water is polluted, so environmental resources and crops and livestock are poisoned.

Fracking generates billions of gallons of these toxic waste fluids. Where does this vile substance go? In Oklahoma (where earthquakes used to be rare), they are experiencing a plague of quakes, apparently caused by underground disposal of fracking fluids (Can Fracking cause earthquakes? NPR StateImpact). In Florida’s Limestone rock, which is already legendary for sinkholes that eat houses and vehicles, it could be devastating. The Floridian Aquifer is the source of most of our drinking water.

The other disposal method would be surface storage, evaporating in our hot sun or seeping down through the rock… either method exposes the public to unacceptably high risks.

If that wasn’t enough reason to ban Fracking, it gets much worse. Fracking releases Methane into the air in unrestricted and unregulated quantities. As a greenhouse gas, Methane is about 25x more dangerous than carbon (EPA). That makes Fracking dirtier than coal… so Fracking is drowning Miami.

None of this seems to concern policy-makers in Tallahassee

Big business has created a toxic money spill. In the past 6 months, $28.5M of dirty money has flooded the halls of our state Capitol in Tallahassee (Miami Herald), which is leading to dirty decisions.

In South Florida, local elected officials have been listening and responding to people’s well-founded fear of Fracking. The Miami-Dade County Commission passed a resolution urging the State to ban Fracking, and so did Broward. Broward taking it a step further, holding hearings to ban Fracking this week.

Yet the Florida Legislature won’t allow us to protect ourselves. Senate Bill 318 will prevent local governments from banning Fracking. House Bill 191, has already been rubber-stamped by our business-obedient House. SB318/HB191 are a wolf in sheep’s clothing: they pretend to be better than no regulation. In reality, Fracking will be “regulated” by Florida’s Government (which has become a wholly owned subsidiary of Big Energy).

I traveled with a group of deeply worried citizens from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach to Tallahassee to bring our concerns directly to our Legislators. This trip was organized by ReThink Energy Florida and other organizations, including Urban Paradise Guild, which I lead. Kim Ross of ReThink reported: We had approximately 160 people up here from 77 different cities… We visited at least 92 (out of 160) different legislators…

While there, I met Craig Stevens of Dimot, PA. His family was featured in Groundswell. He showed us contaminated water pumped from the well from his family’s farm (see photo by Bruce Stanley). He and his family have been lied to and abused, his father got cancer from Fracking waste, and he’s seriously pissed off. He took the time to journey to Tallahassee to spread the word, so Florida doesn’t fall victim to the plague that has done so much damage to the people of PA.

How has business-friendly “regulation” played out in Pennsylvania? First, the Frackers are allowed to keep their chemical brew confidential as a “trade secret” — so people are not allowed to know what toxins are making them sick. They are allowed to lie to landowners about the impacts that Fracking will have on their lands at the surface. They don’t have to disclose that Fracking will destroy property resale values just by being in the neighborhood, and that toxic spills of cancerous chemicals will make homes unlivable. Frackers are not held liable for damage to the land — they don’t clean up or pay compensation, and the owners are left holding the bag.

Worse yet, the PA Health Dept. had a policy where reports people’s health conditions or factors using key-words linked to Fracking were “circular-filed”. They denied it, but were exposed by citizens investigating the trend. The documentary Groundswell Rising describes these and other conditions.

Americans have been told for 30 years that we are supposed to be sharply divided into Right and Left, and have nothing in common. Stevens, a self-described Right-Wing Conservative from PA, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with a bunch of Florida Tree-Huggers: don’t poison the world that sustains us, don’t poison the people, and especially don’t poison children. It’s a no-brainer.

The ones that we don’t share common ground with are Legislators from both parties who are fast-tracking Fracking. Their minds have been addled by bribes from an industry that will suck the life out of Florida.

What have other states done?

New York banned Fracking in 2015 after a 7-year review of data which also gathered 260,000 public comments. The report also found that the expected employment, income, and tax brought about by natural gas development in the state would be substantially less than originally projected (Vice News). It has already been banned in Vermont. In Oklahoma and Texas, they banned local bans — apparently the model for Florida’s SB318.

Are we-the-people powerless to stop this juggernaut?

NO… unless you are silent. Speak up — it is your right and your responsibility.

To take a stand against Fracking, all it takes is 4 phone calls — less than 10 minutes. Just say that you care about Florida, and ask them to vote against SB318. You should also ask them to vote for SB166: to ban Fracking.

Sadly, callers report that even Senator Margolis (who is still remembered as a champion of environmental causes) won’t commit to voting against SB318. Please help her understand.

If you are from Miami-Dade or Broward, tell Braynon and Margolis so.

1. Senator Oscar Braynon: 888–498–2945 (Miami-Dade)
2. Senator
Gwen Margolis: 877–434–0011 (Miami-Dade)
3. Senator
Thad Altman: 888–793–4597
4. Senator
Tom Lee: 866–583–2908