In response to one landowner's request to drill an "exploratory well" in the Everglades, the Broward County Commission has proposed a blanket ban on fracking throughout the county. The ordinance, which was sponsored by Commissioner Beam Furr, moved forward in today's commission meeting and is now set for a public hearing on January 26.
The county's water utilities "rely entirely upon groundwater sources, including the Biscayne and Floridan Aquifers, for potable water supplies," a proposed draft of the ordinance reads. Additionally, "there have been more than one thousand (1,000) documented cases of water contamination near fracking sites" in the United States, the draft says.
Hydraulic fracking is the process by which oil companies inject water, sand, and a host of other chemicals (which energy companies are not legally required to disclose) into the ground to release underground gas and oil. Because companies are not required to disclose what chemicals they are pumping into the ground, it can be hard to trace exactly what effects the technique has on the environment around it. Environmentalists, at least, believe fracking can potentially contaminate groundwater with cancer-causing chemicals.
(Famously, people living in communities near fracking wells have posted videos to YouTube, where they are able to light on fire the water coming from their faucets, ostensibly from chemical contamination.)
Senior County Attorney Michael C. Owens, who wrote the bill on behalf of the county, told New Times the ordinance was drafted in response to Kanter Real Estate LLC's application to drill an exploratory well in Broward's portion of the Everglades.
"As a straightforward and factual matter, there was an application with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to drill an exploratory well," Owens said. "There appears to be no current state regulation that is in place regarding whether or not a production well could use fracking or not."
Kanter reportedly owns 20,000 undeveloped acres in the Everglades, just west of Miramar. A number of Democratic state lawmakers have said they will fight any attempt to drill for oil in the Everglades, and a number of cities within the county, including Tamarac and Sunrise, have passed resolutions against drilling.
The Everglades, which require some of the cleanest water in the world to keep stable, would be particularly vulnerable if fracking chemicals were to leak into the ecosystem.
Furr, in a statement issued to New Times, said the county had discussed what to do about the proposal "over the last year."
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"Fracking and extreme well stimulation have revolutionized the oil and gas industry in places like Pennsylvania and North Dakota," he said. "But we know that these techniques involve drilling through the water table and shooting a mystery fluid into the oil deposit to force the oil out. Never in a million years could I see how it makes sense to let this happen in the Everglades. Not on top of the aquifer where most of South Florida gets its drinking water."
Furr said he was worried about Florida Senate Bill 318, which, if passed, would take away individual counties' power to ban fracking at the local level. The state, instead, would be the only body allowed to regulate the fracking industry, in a move critics say benefits the gas drilling industry.
Read a draft of the ordinance here: