Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Ignore Fracking Charge: Support Common Sense Oil & Gas Regs

The onshore oil and gas industry has been under heavy scrutiny during the 2015 legislative session, as Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, and Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, have filed legislation to provide regulatory certainty to the state of Florida that will ensure this industry is appropriately regulated.

This legislation, Senate Bill 1468 and House Bill 1205, is closing in on its last hurdle before being approved by the Florida Legislature, but there has been a considerable amount of misinformation proliferated by third-party opposition groups, which has clouded the important discussion on this needed regulation.

On behalf of Associated Industries of Florida and our Florida Mineral Rights Working Group, I want to set the record straight on this important public policy that provides the state and the industry with regulatory certainty and is in the public, as well as the environment’s best interest.

The impetus of this legislation was an event that occurred in Southwest Florida when a high-pressure well stimulation technique was reportedly used by an operator. In response to this event and with the understanding that, under current law, no additional regulation is required to conduct high-pressure well stimulations above and beyond what is required for traditional stimulation techniques, Sen. Richter and Rep. Rodrigues worked with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to formulate a stronger regulatory structure that would govern these activities. 

In fact, among the many good provisions included in the bill is that it provides a clear definition of high-pressure well stimulation and creates additional oversight of this technique by requiring that an additional permit be obtained before any high-pressure well stimulation is conducted, including what occurred at the Collier-Hogan well site in Southwest Florida.

The opposition’s rallying cry is that this legislation “legalizes” fracking; but, that is simply not the case; as noted above, this legislation requires additional, not less, regulation of high-pressure well stimulation techniques. In addition, officials from DEP have testified at every committee stop that the pathway to fracking is, in fact, already open and this bill further restricts and provides additional regulations. 

Further, the legislation takes significant steps to ensure that groundwater resources are not contaminated and protects the public health as required by Florida statute.  In addition, the measure grants authority to DEP to deny a permit based on an applicants’ record; and, it provides for increased inspection authority for DEP.  The legislation also requires that all chemicals and other materials added during high-pressure well stimulations be disclosed to the chemical disclosure registry, FracFocus.

Finally, the legislation requires DEP to perform a study on the impacts of high-pressure well stimulation and prohibits the industry from obtaining any permits for this technique until rulemaking is complete.

Sen. Richter and Rep. Rodrigues have formulated good, commonsense public policy in these bills that provides for a strong regulatory structure, so a responsible industry can continue to contribute to Florida’s bottom line, and so that Florida’s public and our precious environment are safeguarded.

On behalf of AIF, I encourage Florida lawmakers to carefully look at the facts behind these good bills before you vote on them on the floor, as we strongly feel that this is important legislation that provides regulatory certainty to our state.

Please support HB 1205 and SB 1468. 

Brewster Bevis is senior vice president of state & federal affairs, Associated Industries of Florida.  Column courtesy of Context Florida

This piece was reprinted by the Columbia County Observer with permission or license.

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