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Debbie Wasserman Schultz says she backs fracking ban after sounding open to it in debate


After calling for “regulations” on fracking during a debate, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz now says she would support a ban in Florida.

"Let me be clear, I am against fracking, especially in Florida,” Wasserman Schultz said in a press release after the Miami Herald sought more details about her position. “I support a ban on fracking at the state level.”

Fracking, a controversial type of oil and gas extraction that raises red flags for environmentalists, was one of the few issues that divided Wasserman Schultz from her Democratic opponent Tim Canova in their lone debate on CBS4 in Miami earlier this month. They also clashed about the Middle East.

When host Jim DeFede asked the candidates during a brief lightning round at the end of the debate if they would support a ban on fracking in Florida, Canova said "I would."

Wasserman Schultz said: "I think we need to strongly regulate fracking and make sure that we protect our environment in process."

DeFede asked: "So you are open to fracking as a possibility in Florida?"

"As long as we have significant regulations,” she replied.

Hydraulic fracturing involves injecting fluids and chemicals at high pressures to extract oil and gas production from rock underground. A 2015 study by the Environmental Protection Agency concluded fracking could hurt drinking water.

State lawmakers have tried three times and failed to pass a bill to prevent local governments from banning fracking and in some years the legislation would have allowed the industry to hide the chemicals used from public record. Gov. Rick Scott’s Department of Environmental Protection has supported the legislation.

Earlier this year, the state Legislature didn’t pass a bill that would have established a temporary ban on fracking to allow for a study about the impact on water. Opponents feared it was a way to eventually allow fracking in Florida, which has been opposed by some local communities including Broward County.

Since the debate, in fundraising emails Canova has repeatedly bashed Wasserman Schultz for her position. The two are competing in the Aug. 30th primary in a district that stretches from western Broward to northern Miami-Dade.

“Fracking is a terrible idea and I am just appalled that Wasserman Schultz wants to allow this controversial drilling practice here in Florida,” he wrote in an Aug. 22 fundraising email.

On Monday, the Miami Herald sent Wasserman Schultz’s campaign a list of questions asking her to provide more specifics about what types of regulations she would support and if she would oppose fracking if a city, county or state opposed it.

Her campaign issued a press release Tuesday about her position:

"Let me be clear, I am against fracking, especially in Florida, because of the sensitivity of our aquifer, which is the source of our drinking water, the environmental damage that it could do to our ecosystem in sensitive areas like the Everglades and, as a mom and a cancer survivor, the serious health risks that accompany fracking.  

“I support any and all regulation of fracking and have consistently used my vote to support stronger regulation and oversight of fracking, like closing loopholes in the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.

“As a federal legislator, I support regulations that are severe enough to push the fracking industry out of existence. However, federal law currently prohibits regulation of fracking on private land, therefore I support a ban on fracking at the state level. Given the terrible track record of my Republican colleagues in Congress – not to mention Governor Rick Scott and a Republican-controlled state legislature – I would support a range of means, including a constitutional amendment to ban fracking in Florida.”

When asked why she said she said she called for “regulations” but didn’t call for a “ban” during the debate, Wasserman Schultz’s spokesman Ryan Banfill said that the question came up during a brief lightning round of questions.

“It was at the very end of hour long debate,” he said. “These are not questions that have 10-second answers.”