The Lafayette Board of County Commissioners was asked to consider supporting a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” by a group of activists during their meeting on Aug. 10. On Sept. 14, the Board tabled the resolution for their next Monday meeting in October.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), fracking is the well stimulation practice of injecting high pressure liquid mixtures, including water and acid, into coal beds or shale rock to force open fissures and extract oil or natural gas. The North Florida area is currently an unassessed basin for oil and gas extraction opportunities, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Amy Datz of the Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida spoke on behalf of the group at the commission meeting, although others were prepared to present as well, on how the fracking ban could benefit Lafayette County. Datz has worked with the state for 31 years during her 40-plus years as a professional environmental scientist.
Datz and a few other activists present at the meeting assured commissioners and the public they were not against conventional oil and well drilling, only extreme oil and gas extraction methods such as fracking.
“There are other ways to get natural gas; there are other ways to generate energy,” Datz stated. “I understand the desire to move away from dependence on foreign oil. This can be achieved, but should not be achieved at the expense of our environment. Our water here in the Panhandle is our most precious resource. If we don’t have water, we have nothing. We can’t raise livestock or poultry, we can’t support the wildlife tourists come here to experience, and even our largest crops like pine and pecans cannot flourish without an abundant supply of fresh, clean water.”
Datz said fracking is an imminent threat to the water supply due to the drain on the aquifer from fracking operations and the millions of gallons of backflow wastewater that could potentially contaminate the water supply with “toxic chemicals, radioactive heavy metal materials, and explosives,” Datz said.
Datz pointed out Lafayette County’s many private water wells could face contamination from the backflow wastewater, and the population would likely not be able to afford to replace the wells. The new wells could also face contamination again, Datz said. According to a Florida Farm Bureau Insurance agent, water quality is not covered by insurance.
“If a fracking company destroys your well, you personally will have to sue the oil and gas company for compensation,” said Datz. “After being tied up in court for years, the company will do one of two things: they will dig a new well into the same aquifer they’ve already destroyed or they will get the county to condemn your property and pay you pennies on the dollar to buy your property that may have been in your family for generations. Your children and your grandchildren will never be able to inherit their legacy or set foot on their ancestral home ever again.”
Datz referenced cases across America where homeowners have sued oil and gas companies. In New Mexico, over 300 homeowners are suing oil and gas companies for the destruction of their wells, she said. In Oklahoma, citizens are suing for damage caused by earthquakes, which the state officially recognized earlier this year as being caused by increased fracking.
“In Florida, the seismic testing and the actual underground explosions caused during the fracking process would equate to increased sinkholes,” Datz said. “You all know prevention is far cheaper than cleanup from pollution spills or the development of a sinkhole. That cleanup cost for fracking waste disposal would fall on this county commission to deal with in your budget.”
Datz added fracking causes property values to plummet and makes getting a mortgage more difficult.
“Please ask yourself this question, honestly: if you had to choose between buying a home where there was fracking and buying a home where there was no fracking, which one would you choose?” Datz asked the commissioners.
“As for the argument that we want to make America energy independent from foreign oil, please consider this: if every drop of oil and gas that could be pumped out of Florida was pumped, it would only satisfy four days on the world market, but it would leave Florida with over 100 years of environmental damage,” Datz stated. “It’s a bad deal for the citizens, for the wildlife, and for our agricultural industry.”
Datz presented the Board with a folder containing numerous articles and studies on fracking, many of which highlight the detrimental effects on land and public health, as well as a draft resolution for commissioners to consider at their next meeting in September. Datz remarked many counties and cities across Florida have passed similar resolutions in support of a statewide ban, including nearby Hamilton and Madison counties, for a total representation of 31 percent of Florida’s population.
“Protect your family and your land and your water legacy for your children and your grandchildren,” Datz concluded. “Let your legislature and your governor know you don’t want your county destroyed.”
Commissioners unanimously agreed to place the resolution on their next meeting’s agenda.
This article was written by Amber Vann from Suwannee Democrat, Live Oak, Fla. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.