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    JANUARY 24, 2019By Tim Benson

    There Is No Scientific Justification For Banning Hydraulic Fracturing In Florida

    Companion legislation has been introduced in the Florida Legislature that would ban hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking,” in the Sunshine State. Opposition to fracking in Florida stems partly from environmental concerns over the possibility the process could contaminate the Everglades National Park or groundwater in the Floridan or Biscayne aquifers, which provide drinking water to most of the state’s population. (Other legislation has also been introduced to ban fracking specifically to “protect the integrity of the aquifer.”)

    Enacting a permanent ban on fracking would be a costly mistake. Fracking wells are located thousands of feet beneath the Earth’s surface. However, water wells and drinking water sources are typically no more than hundreds of feet deep. Despite fear-mongering to the contrary, there is no evidence that seepage of fracking fluids, oil, or natural gas from fracking wells contaminate water sources.

    The misconception that fracking is polluting water has been debunked by numerous researchers. Since 2010, there have been more than two dozen peer-reviewed studies and assessments from experts determining the fracking process is not a systemic threat to groundwater sources. Perhaps most notably, the Obama-era U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed these findings in 2016 with its own $29 million, six-year study of the impacts on groundwater by 110,000 fracked oil and natural gas wells in use across the country since 2011. That report concluded, “Hydraulic fracturing operations are unlikely to generate sufficient pressure to drive fluids into shallow drinking water zones.”

    While no fracking is currently being conducted in the state, the process has been used in the past, and Florida has a long history of oil and natural gas extraction. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports over 1.92 million barrels of crude oil were extracted from the state in 2017, along with 14.87 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

    According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, “Over 1,000 permitted wells have been drilled [in Florida] since 1943. During this timeframe, the petroleum industry has safely produced 611 million barrels of crude oil and 689 billion cubic feet of natural gas. … There have been no major accidents, spills, or blowouts in Florida’s history. Compliance rates with permit provisions and Florida’s rules and statutes for the industry is very high, around 98 percent.”

    As well as being environmentally safe, fracking has had a positive economic impact on those areas that have allowed the practice. A 2016 study of communities near shale basins – conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago, Princeton University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – determined hydraulic fracturing activity brings $1,300 to $1,900 in annual benefits to local households, including “a 7 percent increase in average income, driven by rises in wages and royalty payments, a 10 percent increase in employment, and a 6 percent increase in housing prices.” 

    Federal, state, and local governments have tested thousands of sites for hydraulic fracturing pollution of groundwater and drinking water resources over the last decade. In light of the immense number of studies showing fracking is safe and that it provides substantial economic benefits, Florida lawmakers should not seek to ban fracking, place a moratorium on, or place onerous regulations on drilling activity. Traditional drilling is currently being conducted in the Sunshine State in a safe and responsible manner.

    It is not meant to suggest there are zero risks associated with fracking or other drilling operations. However, those risks are quite small compared to the enormous benefits fracking continues to provide to the United States.