Florida Lawmakers Move to Let Fracking Companies Keep Secrets About Toxic Chemicals They'll Pump Into Ground

Bills that throw a cloak of secrecy over fracking operations in Florida passed out of the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee on Tuesday. The measures exempt from public disclosure the chemicals, which are rich in toxins, used in the process.

See also: - Florida Fracking: Sen. Jeff Clemens Says Name Your Poison Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," involves blasting millions of gallons of water and a chemical stew into the ground to fracture rock formations and release oil and gas. No fracking is currently underway in Florida, but it's on the horizon. Drilling applications have been granted for Collier and Hendry counties and applied for in Santa Rosa.

The two bills passed Tuesday, HB 71 and HB 157, had unanimous support from the eight GOP members of the panel present and unanimous rejection from the panel's four Democrats.

The measures, both sponsored by Lee County Republican Ray Rodrigues, are something of an improvement over similar bills he introduced last year. Those measures would have required that drillers disclose chemicals used to FracFocus.org, an organization whose bias is questionable and track record weak.

This year's measures require disclosure to the state Department of Environmental Protection. But drillers are still permitted to label their chemical mixtures "trade secrets," exempting them from disclosure to the general public under Florida's Open Government and Public Records laws.

Rodrigues has characterized his bills as better than nothing. "Do you prefer the status quo, which is hydraulic fracturing is permitted with no disclosure," he asked the committee, "or do you prefer to know what chemicals are being put into the ground?"

In an email to New Times, committee member Katie Edwards (D-Plantation) said that her issue with hydraulic fracturing remains "the potential impact to our water supply from the chemical additives used in the process" and that "adequate safeguards should be in place to ensure that environmental protection is not compromised."

Speaking to web publication Law360, Sierra Club Florida lobbyist David Cullen described the Rodrigues bills as "a public relations strategy so the [oil] industry will be able to say, 'Look what we're doing in the way of disclosure.'"

Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.

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