Senate and House Fail to Pass Meaningful Oil and Gas Drilling Regulation Reforms

Update to April 27 post

By Rob Moher, Conservancy of Southwest Florida President and CEO

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida worked tirelessly in good faith to pursue legislation this session that would protect public health and water supplies in the face of the fracking-type extraction being pursued in Southwest Florida.

Our community expects and deserves strong legislation to protect against future fracking-type extractions that leave our water supplies and citizens at risk. Unfortunately, the legislature did not provide that and we will have to now work next session to try to secure comprehensive oil and gas regulatory reform.

We look forward to engaging with key stakeholders and the community to ensure our elected officials and agencies act in a way to address these concerns and put in place legislation resulting in meaningful protection.

April 27: The Conservancy urges legislators to say no to fracking bills

Rob Moher, Conservancy President and CEO

Weak oil and gas regulatory legislation proposed in response to the unauthorized fracking that took place in Southwest Florida is currently poised to pass with the support of the oil industry, in spite of widespread opposition from advocates for public health and water resource protection. One of the four fracking bills passed the House on Monday and awaits a Senate vote. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero.

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida has worked tirelessly in good faith with all parties to try to craft legislation for this session, in light of fracking being presently allowed with virtually no regulatory oversight or information being public disclosed. However, we are now left with no choice but to oppose the current proposed legislation because it does not provide even the most minimal of safeguards for public health and water supplies.

We cannot support legislation that does little more than provide false assurances to the public, as these bills do. From the start, we were concerned there could be an attempt to pass legislation that would give a facade of regulatory protections without the substance. Our worst fears are now realized with these proposed bills that are filled with loopholes to benefit the industry in exempting many forms of fracking from regulation and public disclosure.

What the bills will do:

  • Only regulate and require chemicals to be disclosed from some forms of fracking defined as “high- pressure well stimulation treatments” (those using high pressure and over 100,000 gallons of fluid total) — suspending permitting of those techniques until studied.

What the bills won’t do:

  • Will not require individual bonds for these riskier techniques or oil well operators to hold liability insurance in the event that the cost of remediation exceeds the amount of the bond posted, so taxpayers are not burdened with cleanup costs.
  • Will not require well operators using these new, more water-intensive techniques to use alternative water supplies rather than our prime drinking water sources. Taxpayers already have to pay higher water prices as the county is forced to use more expensive alternative, salty water supplies. Oil well operators should not be allowed to use our limited best potable water supply sources for industrial purposes.
  • Will not require vital information, such as health and safety data for first aid to be provided to emergency responders or to health professionals to diagnose and treat patients.

These are just some of the most severe deficiencies in the proposed oil and gas legislation.

Over one year after the fracking operation at the Hogan well, the deep groundwater monitoring well is just being installed and the sampling initiated to do a meaningful investigation of potential contamination to our water supply sources. While we certainly hope no contamination occurred, we cannot know at this point.

Our community expects and deserves a thorough assessment of the condition our water supplies as well as strong legislation to protect against future irresponsible use of fracking-type extractions that leave our water supplies and citizens at risk of exposure to toxic contaminants. The Conservancy is committed to continuing to fight for the meaningful comprehensive legislation we desperately need.

We urge citizens to contact their legislators immediately and urge them to vote no on these bills and support the introduction of stronger oil and gas legislation next session instead.