Sen. Dana Young of Tampa, the former House Republican leader elected to the Senate in November, wants the state to ban "advanced well stimulation treatment," specifically hydraulic fracturing, acid fracturing and matrix acidizing which use high pressure techniques to inject water into rock formations to extract oil and gas.
Young, who practices environmental and land use law, last year voted for a House bill to regulate and authorize the technique in Florida beginning in 2017 after a study. She told the Herald/Times the proposal this year was not so much a change of heart as an opportunity to better understand what voters want and expect in Florida.
"I'm absolutely in favor of energy independence and in favor of harnessing our natural resources safely but Florida is unique,'' she said Monday. "I believe, and it is the belief of most Floridians, that our fragile limestone geology and fragile environment as a whole is incompatible with fracking of any kind. So it's a balancing act."
During her campaign, the left-leaning advocacy Florida Strong accused Young of benefiting from the proceeds of her husband's investment firm, which has had stakes in companies that profit from the oil industry. Young dismissed the claims as distortions of her record.
Under the bill proposed last year, the state would impose a two-year moratorium on fracking while the Department of Environmental Protection would study the impact of hydraulic fracturing and similar technologies on Florida and propose rules to regulate it. The rules would have had to come back to the Legislature for ratification.
While proponents of the measure, like Young, focused on the two-year ban as the key feature of the bill, environmentalists focused on the parts that prohibited local governments from imposing their own bans or regulations, shielded from public disclosure the specific list of chemicals used in the process and ultimately opened the door to fracking.
Environmentalists cited the state’s fragile water table, the latent impact the bill could have on public health, and urged lawmakers to pass a bill proposed by Democrats to ban fracking instead. The bill didn't get a hearing in either of the Republican-led chambers.