South Floridians Rally to Pressure Gov. Ron DeSantis to Ban Fracking Statewide

South Floridians Rally to Pressure Gov. Ron DeSantis to Ban Fracking Statewide
People's Climate Movement
South Floridians are rallying to pressure Gov. Ron DeSantis to ban fracking in the entire state of Florida.

Organized by the People’s Climate Movement Broward and Floridians Against Fracking, Wednesday's rally in Oakland Park is one of a slew of anti-fracking rallies that will occur across the state. The rally coincides with the end of DeSantis's first 100 days in office.

Upon entering office, the governor issued an executive order that called for $2.5 billion in Everglades restoration and water resource protections over the next four years, amounting to a $1 billion increase in funding over previous years. It also outlined that his administration would “take necessary actions to adamantly oppose all offshore oil and gas activities off every coast in Florida and hydraulic fracturing in Florida.”

Hydraulic fracturing is a technique designed to recover gas and oil from shale rock by drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside.

Last month, the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee and Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee voted in favor of similar anti-fracking bills that aimed to ban two forms of hydraulic fracturing.

But environmentalists fear the bills don’t go far enough. Critics say the bills create a loophole that would permit matrix acidizing, a third form of fracking that involves the dissolving of rocks in acid and other chemicals instead of fracturing them with pressurized liquid. They argue that since most of the state's drinking water resides in underground aquifers, all forms of fracking pose a major threat to Floridians' access to clean water.

“A hundred days ago I didn’t know what matrix acidizing was, but I knew it was a threat,” says organizer Susan Steinhauser. “That’s why we’re calling for an outright ban. We’re calling for this bill to ban matrix acidizing as well as hydraulic fracturing. The future without that ban is a risk I don’t want to picture.”

Steinhauser fears that a water crisis like that of Flint, Michigan could occur in South Florida if the state fails to enact a full ban.

One anti-fracking bill that has garnered support from environmentalists and has been backed by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee was proposed by State Sen. Bill Montford. The bill includes a ban on matrix acidizing for oil and gas drilling, making it the only proposed bill that would ban all forms of fracking in the state.

There has not been any fracking at the state's 57 active wells since 2013, when Florida's Department of Environmental Protection pulled all permits for Texas-based oil company, Dan A. Hughes Co., after it was caught using methods similar to fracking near Naples.

But as gas prices rise, proposals to drill in coastal waters and the Everglades, coupled with the lack of a total statewide fracking ban, leaves Florida open to oil companies looking to capitalize on untapped reserves.

“Look what’s happening in the Everglades,” Steinhauser says. “But there are bills right now in Tallahassee to put filters in schools to protect children from lead. Well, how about protecting the kids from carcinogens in the water from fracking?”

The Rally to Ban Fracking. 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 17, at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, 2610 W. Oakland Park Blvd., Oakland Park.
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Dominique Stewart is a freelance writer in South Florida covering culture and community in South Florida. She has worked as a staff writer at Brooklyn Magazine and assistant editor at the Tempest.