Florida “Ban Fracking” Pledge Based On Predictably False Claims

This week a group called “Floridians Against Fracking” (FAF) claimed to have the signatures of 101 political candidates pledging their support of efforts to ban fracking in Florida. If all of these politicians and candidates did, in fact, sign this “pledge,” then they have been duped.

Even though fracking does not occur in the Sunshine State, FAF has borrowed a tactical page from other “ban fracking” efforts, using predictable all-too-familiar fear-mongering and dishonesty in place of science in a bid to derail productive domestic energy development. This “pledge” features the apocalyptic hyperbole we have come to expect from extreme anti-fracking activists, repeating numerous falsehoods about fracking and its associated effects that have been debunked by experts time and time again.

First, the pledge claims that fracking is exempted from “important environmental protections” which, of course, is nonsense. In fact, hydraulic fracturing is heavily regulated at the local, state, and federal levels. No oil or gas well can be drilled in Florida without a permit from Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection.

The pledges also claims:

“All Floridians and our major industries, like tourism and agriculture, require safe, reliable clean water resources and clean air. Florida already has very serious water scarcity and contamination issues, which fracking would only intensify.” (emphasis added)

It seems Florida’s anti-fracking activists failed to examine the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) data, which show that as the use of natural gas – thanks to fracking – has increased, air pollutants have decreased across the country, which has greatly enhanced public health.  They also must have missed the EPA’s five-year study that found hydraulic fracturing has “not led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources.”

As scientists, regulators and responsible environmentalists routinely point out, fracking is not only a fundamentally safe and highly regulated practice, but even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) acknowledges that it is the primary reason that the United States leads the world in carbon emissions reductions. U.S Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz had this to say earlier this month:

“The increased production of oil and natural gas in the United States has, obviously, been a major story in terms of our economy, and also our environment.”

While no fracking occurs in Florida that would use water, it is instructive to be aware of how FAF uses scare tactics. One of the “facts” provided by FAF is that each well that is hydraulically fractured requires 2-8 million gallons of water. While this statistic is supposed to sound scary, it isn’t when put into context. For instance, the average well does indeed use about 4 million gallons of water over the course of several days (this is a national average. In California, for instance, fracking uses an average of 150,000 gallons).

Four million gallons is only about 1 percent of the amount of water used daily in Florida’s recreational irrigation (golf courses) and fracking generally happens only once per well, with exceptions.  If FAF actually cared about Florida’s water supply, rather than simply bashing industry, it should abandon the anti-fracking shtick and take aim at Florida’s golf industry. But, then, that would be absurd.

Florida boasts a long history of responsible energy development as well as a long tradition of environmental activism. All Floridians want to ensure that they are breathing clean air and drinking pure water, but a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing will do nothing – literally – to further these ends and it will waste taxpayer dollars in the process. Although FAF only mentions tourism and agriculture as two of Florida’s important industries, the energy sector will also continue to be a significant part of Florida’s economy, and it is a disservice to Floridians around the state to peddle misinformation about a well-understood and safe technology like hydraulic fracturing.