By Samir Lakhani, GIS Intern, FracTracker Alliance
There have been a significant number of enquiries regarding the status of hydraulic fracturing activity in Florida, enough of which garner a FracTracker post. The short answer is that there is minimal drilling activity occurring in Florida—but not for long. It was only a matter of time until gas companies set their gaze on Florida, and her abundance of energy resources. Preparations to drill are already underway. Permits have been filed, equipment is being shipped, and exploratory drilling will begin any minute now. What makes Florida drilling ominous is the real risk for chemical leakage and groundwater contamination.
It is just another sunny day in sunny Florida, but on this quiet day, two men ring your doorbell. You answer, of course, and find out that these men are from Total Safety, Inc., a company contracted by the independent oil company Dan A. Hughes Company, from Beeville, Texas. They ask you to provide your contact information and any other emergency contact info, just in case disaster strikes at the drill site operating barely 1000 feet from your house. For most of the citizens of Naples, Florida, this is the first they have ever heard of drilling, in their neighborhood. The citizens of Naples, Florida received quite a scare that day. The outrage in the community was so abundant and uniform that these families decided to act out against this development to preserve their piece of paradise. Read More
What makes drilling in Florida so precarious is that porous limestone shelves make up the majority of rock underlying permitted well sites. If any accident were to happen, the leakage of waste and chemicals would be virtually impossible to contain. It then would seep directly into the Florida aquifer which lies beneath the entirety of the state and large sections of Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. Maintaining water quality for the Floridan Aquifer is non-negotiable, since it is the primary water source for Savannah, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Orlando, Gainesville, Tampa, and others. An attempt to clean the aquifer thoroughly would be impossible, and not to mention, prohibitively expensive. Another troubling thought is possible contamination and degradation of the beloved Florida Everglades.
Florida is an interesting case right now; the gas game is still very young. Florida lawmakers have an opportunity to draft real preventative measures, rather than legislation after the fact. Hydraulic fracturing is no new phenomenon, and Florida politicians have the prospect of learning from other states, incorporating relevant ideas and taking their own stance on this issue. Currently, a couple of bills are slowly trudging through the state legislature. The idea is to require a list of chemical disclosures from all active gas drilling companies. Environmentalists claim this bill is a sham, for the companies need to list the chemicals used in drilling, but not the quantities of each. It may be just another half-hearted attempt to show real political action, while retaining a good business relationship with drilling companies. It is unlikely more stringent policies will be successful, however, given that some powers currently in office believe climate change to be a fairy tale.