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Everything You Need To Know About Fracking in Florida

What the Frack Florida! 

Fracking vs. Environmentalists has been a long fought battle for years over the fracturing of the Earth for resource gain. Do environmentalists have a fighting chance in finally defeating fracking in Florida? Dive into the history of fracking to learn more and make your own determination.

What is “Fracking”?

Simply put, fracking is a method using pressurized liquid to fracture rock and obtain natural gas or oil. By definition from the Environmental Protection Agency, Fracking can be defined as  “the process of drilling into host formations (shales and tight sandstones) and injecting fluids and sand under pressure great enough to fracture the rock formations to allow the extraction of oil and gas.”(1) 

Source: Information courtesy of Earthworksaction.org, design by Hannah Otto, March 2013

history of hydraulic fracking E.A.L. Roberts portrait and frac drawing
“Picture of Colonel Edward A.L. Roberts and His Invention of the Exploding Torpedo.” American Oil & Gas Historical Society, 1 Sept. 2007, https://aoghs.org/technology/hydraulic-fracturing/.

 History

Fracking can be linked all the way back to 1865 when Civil war union veteran Lt. Col. Edward A.L Roberts created what is known as the “exploding torpedo” which was a metal encasing filled with powder that was lowered into a well and then released, uncapping the encasing and exploding underground, where oil would then flow freely from the fractures of rock. It wasn’t until 1949, when Halliburton Oil Well Cementing Company received an exclusive license to start hydraulic fracking, originating in Stephens County, Oklahoma and Archer County, Texas, that fracking hit the ground running and began heavy commercial use. Since then, according to the U.S Environmental Information Administration, the United States has almost 1 million oil and natural gas wells, producing 108.58 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas and oil.  Fracking and its production have rapidly increased since the 1940s but states have taken a stand against this method of extracting fossil fuels. Maryland and Virginia have permanently banned fracking and many counties and cities have already enacted local bans or temporary bans like in Florida also who recently banned offshore drilling. 

shooters to hydraulic fracturing

 “Picture of one of the first fracking sites in 1949 in Oklahoma.” American Oil & Gas Historical Society, 1 Sept. 2007, https://aoghs.org/technology/hydraulic-fracturing/.

Air 

Fracking is considered “cleaner” in comparison to other fossil fuel plants because it produces less pollution and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and while that may be true, its problems lie elsewhere such as continued environmental impacts and methane gas emission which according to the NRDC, heats up the earth 80 times more than carbon dioxide. 

Fracking’s continued air pollution not only leads to climate change but also health risks when breathed in by animals or humans. “Research has linked pollution from fracking to unhealthy levels of smog and toxic air contaminants”, says the NRDC (2).  These contaminants such as carcinogens, hydrogen sulfide, diesel particulates, and VOCs have been known to lead to respiratory problems, nervous system impacts, birth defects, blood disorders, and cancer.

A rig hand works the controls while changing out a drill pipe at a Knox Energy Inc. oil drilling site in Knox County, Ohio, U.S., on Dec. 8, 2014.

Rayman, Noah. “A Rig Hand Works the Controls While Changing out a Drill Pipe at a Knox Energy Inc. Oil Drilling Site in Knox County, Ohio, U.S.” Time, 8 Dec. 2014, https://time.com/3659649/fracking-earthquakes-ohio-study/. Ty Wright—Bloomberg/Getty Image

Environment: Water 

Fracking pumps thousands of gallons of water into the ground in order to create cracks and obtain natural gas. The water and chemicals and toxins left after the oil and natural gas have extracted, is called flow back or fracking fluids which is sucked back up through the well. This flow back has no use and companies must find a place to displace it. This is where the problems occur. One solution has been to pump it deep into wells underground, leaving it there forever. However, this method has been known to cause earthquakes such as one in Ohio in March 2014 which was a magnitude of 3, causing state officials to close the well two days later. (3) .  The fracking site in Ohio was near hidden fault lines, fracturing rocks on or near it, causing the fault to rupture, and therefore causing seismic activity. Ohio had never experienced earthquakes before fracking began.  

But what’s more pressing is the health risks this wastewater warrants. Fracking uses and exposes many toxins that can be either radioactive or corrosive and harmful to the health of humans and surrounding life. Fracking fluids stored incorrectly, or spill can deplete oxygen from lakes or ponds, causing algal blooms and harming the aquatic life or these chemicals can end up in drinking water plants, exposing humans to chemicals that can cause cancer or other health risks. 

big cypress oil drilling In: Fracking the Everglades | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida

Bauman, Laura. “Picture of Fracking in the Big Cypress National Reserve.” Our Santa Fe River, 23 Nov. 2017, https://oursantaferiver.org/fracking-the-everglades/.

Fracking in Florida

As of 2018, according to the Environmental Information Administration, Florida has 39 gas producing wells and most of the natural gas production comes from the Jay field in the Florida panhandle. The EIA states that “Geologists believe economically recoverable natural gas reserves may lie offshore in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, but Florida has banned exploratory drilling in state waters in that part of the Gulf, and the federal government has placed a moratorium on exploration in federal waters in the eastern Gulf through June 2022.” (4). So far natural gas production in Florida has been dwindling because of these temporary bans that could be storing most of Florida’s natural gas reserve areas. 

How Fracking Has Affected Florida

Along with air and water issues, the storage of wastewater from fracking can also lead to toxic contamination in aquifers and groundwater. For Florida, most oil and natural gas are deep underground, past aquifers and porous carbonate rock like limestone. Workers must drill through the aquifer, making sure to encase the pipes through the aquifer with cement to ensure that no toxins or oil could enter the aquifer. This casing is usually never removed and remains through the aquifer forever. However, incorrect placement of piping or rusting of piping could lead to toxins contaminating these aquifers and entering our drinking water. And once the fracking process begins, the pressurized fracking water breaks up the porous rock, allowing for natural gas and the fracking fluid to quickly move towards the surface water because the rocks are so permeable, meaning they have many pores gas and liquid can travel through.

Another way these aquifers could become contaminated is through natural disasters such as sinkholes. 

From the TampaBayTimes in 2016: “A massive sinkhole that opened underneath a gypsum stack at a Mosaic phosphate fertilizer plant in Mulberry may have dumped at least 215 million gallons of contaminated water into the Floridan Aquifer over the past three weeks, company officials say.” (5). These natural disasters might not happen often, but the effect they have on our communities is detrimental.

Who Are The Major Players in The Florida Fracking Business?

Big companies like investor-owned natural gas utilities and energy companies are itching to get a hold of production of natural gas along the gulf coast. Many of which already have a stronghold on gas production in Florida. Companies such as “Spectra Energy Corporation, NextEra Energy Inc., Duke Energy, and Florida Power & Light completed the construction of the Sabal Trail Transmission pipeline” (6). This pipeline was approved by the EPA, “despite admitting the inevitable negative impacts to the Floridan Aquifer” (7).  It is up to us to stop supporting natural gas companies and start supporting renewable energy companies and sources. Many businesses and organizations have already joined the cause like  Florida Renewable Energy Association and Floridians Against Fracking, who are non-profit organizations that seek to move Florida into a renewable future. Part of the Florida Renewable energy Association is to “actively encourage networking by providing event services and online capabilities to members and their clean energy projects.” (8)

Floridians Against Fracking was formed in 2014 and has since then, petitioned, volunteered, shown legislative advocacy and created a mission against fracking in Florida. 

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, crowd and outdoor
Source:  “Florida against Fracking Protest.” Facebook, 22 Apr. 2019, https://www.facebook.com/FLNoFrack/photos/a.909994505692501/2840739979284601/?type=3&theater.

We as Floridians have the power to seek justice and determine what happens on our coast and in our backyard. Below are a few things you can do to help end fracking.

What YOU can do: 


Citations: 

“{{Lw.searchUI_title}}.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, search.epa.gov/epasearch/?querytext=fracking&areaname=&areacontacts=&areasearchurl=&typeofsearch=epa&result_template=2col.ftl#/.

  “Facts About Fracking.” LiveScience, Purch, www.livescience.com/34464-what-is-fracking.html.

“Environment.” Fracking Florida, frackingflorida.org/floridas-environment/.

“Shooters – A ‘Fracking’ History.” American Oil & Gas Historical Society, 20 Jan. 2020, aoghs.org/technology/hydraulic-fracturing/.

 “US Oil and Gas Wells by Production Rate – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).” US Oil and Gas Wells by Production Rate – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), www.eia.gov/petroleum/wells/.

“Fracking Led to Ohio Earthquakes.” LiveScience, Purch, www.livescience.com/49326-fracking-caused-ohio-earthquakes.html.

Number of Producing Gas Wells, www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/ng_prod_wells_s1_a.htm.

“The Process of Unconventional Natural Gas Production.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 22 Jan. 2020, www.epa.gov/uog/process-unconventional-natural-gas-production.

“The Florida Senate.” Senate Bill 200 (2020) – The Florida Senate, www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/200/?Tab=BillHistory.

“Florida Renewable Energy Association.” Florida Renewable Energy Association, cleanenergyflorida.org/.

“Natural Gas Utilities.” Natural Gas Utilities / Florida Energy Clearinghouse / Energy / Home – Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, www.fdacs.gov/Energy/Florida-Energy-Clearinghouse/Natural-Gas-Utilities.

“Natural Gas Utilities.” Natural Gas Utilities / Florida Energy Clearinghouse / Energy / Home – Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, www.fdacs.gov/Energy/Florida-Energy-Clearinghouse/Natural-Gas-Utilities.

Anderson, Curt. “House, Senate Bills Ban 2 of 3 Forms of Oil, Gas Fracking in Florida.” Sun, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 7 Apr. 2019, www.sun-sentinel.com/news/politics/fl-ne-ap-fracking-bans-house-20190326-story.html.

Number of Producing Gas Wells, www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/ng_prod_wells_s1_a.htm.

Russo, Ray, and Elizabeth Screaton. “Should Florida ‘Frack’ Its Limestone for Oil and Gas? Two Geophysicists Weigh In.” The Conversation, 12 Dec. 2019, theconversation.com/should-florida-frack-its-limestone-for-oil-and-gas-two-geophysicists-weigh-in-55428.

O’Donnell, Christopher. “Mosaic Plant Sinkhole Dumps 215 Million Gallons of Reprocessed Water into Floridan Aquifer (w/Video).” Tampa Bay Times, Tampa Bay Times, 24 Aug. 2019, www.tampabay.com/news/environment/water/mosaic-plant-sinkhole-dumps-215-million-gallons-of-reprocessed-water-into/2293845/.

Rayman, Noah. “Study Links Ohio Earthquakes to Fracking.” Time, Time, 8 Jan. 2015, time.c

om/3659649/fracking-earthquakes-ohio-study/.

“Air Pollution Regulatory Framework.” Air Pollution Control Equipment Calculations, 2008, pp. 15–26., doi:10.1002/9780470255773.ch2.

“Natural Gas Utilities.” Natural Gas Utilities / Florida Energy Clearinghouse / Energy / Home – Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, www.fdacs.gov/Energy/Florida-Energy-Clearinghouse/Natural-Gas-Utilities.

“Florida.” Food & Water Watch, www.foodandwaterwatch.org/state/florida.

https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/fracking-air-pollution-IB.pdf