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Fracking Ban Passes Senate Committee, Environmentalists Say It's Not Enough

The Florida Senate is one step closer to approving a ban on fracking, but the bill looks dramatically different than environmental advocates had hoped.

The Senate Agriculture committee narrowly advanced a controversial measure (SB 7064) that would ban fracking, something environmental advocacy groups like Floridians Against Fracking have been pushing for years now.

But many still are not happy with the bill because it leaves out a common fracking technique, known as matrix acidizing.

Matrix acidizing is a process uses acid to dissolve rock and extract oil and natural gas. It happens at a lower pressure than hydraulic fracturing, the most common fracking practice.

The bill passed 3-2 on party lines. 

“For the many years that I’ve been coming up here, the governors have been enormously opposed to offshore drilling," said Sen. Kevin Rader (D-Boca Raton), who voted no on the bill. "When it comes to fracking, I thought we were on the same page. But when you don’t include all different forms of fracking, which includes matrix acidizing, in the definition, well then it’s not doing everything it should be doing.”

Language authorizing oil drilling in the Everglades also found its way into the bill courtesy of an amendment by Sen. Ben Albritton (R-Bartow), the committee’s chairman.

It largely codifies administrative rules set by the state Department of Environmental Protection into law and adds new restrictions to obtain a permit.

Albritton said it is a done deal, citing a recent ruling by the First District Court of Appeal allowing oil drilling in the Everglades. This amendment would make it safer, he said.

“The impacts of this amendment would be that the above-ground portions of that operation would be exposed to greater costs, exposed to greater restrictions," said Albritton. "Essentially the goal here, this all was very organic. The goal here would be that this would increase the safety of the above-ground portions of that operation.”

Albritton also offered an amendment that would ban companies from pumping fracking waste into wells, a move received praise from environmentalists like Florida Food and Water Watch.

Only one amendment failed. Pensacola Republican Senator Doug Broxon’s proposal would have banned using acid in any Florida well – either oil or water.

This alarmed and united an unlikely coalition of activists -- the Florida Petroleum Council, Florida Food and Water Watch and the Sierra Club of Florida.

Broxon, clearly dismayed over the opposition, said the oppossion was "really offensive," but withdrew his amendment.

The committee voted and adjourned 20 minutes before it was scheduled to end at the behest of Albritton.

This upset the committee’s Democrats and dozens of activists who lined up to speak on the issue.

The Florida Democratic Party called the bill a “sham” and said Republicans should be ashamed for quote “betraying Florida’s bipartisan tradition of protecting the environment.”

Florida Food and Water watch said in a statement it is “appalling” lawmakers chose not to include matrix acidizing in the ban.

A similar fracking ban, filed by Sen. Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee), includes the prohibition on matrix acidizing.

That bill got the nod from the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, but will likely not be heard by another.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has voiced support for a fracking ban.

Copyright 2020 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.

Shawn Mulcahy is a junior at Florida State University pursuing a degree in public relations and political science. Before WFSU, he worked as an Account Coordinator at RB Oppenheim Associates and a contributing indie writer for the music blog EARMILK. After graduation, he plans to work in journalism or government communications. He enjoys coffee, reading and music.