Florida Paves the Way for Fracking by Upping Contamination Limits in Drinking Water
TALLAHASSEE – Florida's Environmental Regulation Commission narrowly voted to approve controversial new water quality criteria on Tuesday, despite strong opposition from environmental groups warning of cancer risks that would follow, were allowable levels of carcinogens such as benzene to be raised.
The state's Department of Environmental Protection had proposed a rule change that would increase limits on 23 chemicals in water bodies that supply drinking water, while decreasing limits on 17. Environmentalists argued that the proposal, if adopted, would put more Floridians at risk for cancer. FDEP countered that it is not weakening standards, but rather updating its criteria based on new science.
Dozens of environmental speakers took to the podium in Tallahassee, with many arguing that the seven-member commission should delay the vote until two vacant seats for local government and environmental representatives had been filled. One, John Moran, was even led away by law enforcement officers after arguing, "The environmental community hasn't been given a vote. The governor spat on our democratic process by keeping those seats vacant for over a year."
The commission voted 3-2 in favor of the new regulations, which environmentalists say are clearly designed to pave the way for widespread fracking in the state by raising the allowable level of pollutants known to be related to the process. Benzene limits, which are commonly found to be much higher in areas where fracking takes place, are tripled under the new regulations. During this year's session, the Florida House attempted to pass a bill that would have allowed fracking to take place throughout the state as early as 2017, while outlawing local fracking bans, though it ultimately died in the Senate.
The decision takes place as Florida waters are being besieged by algal blooms from its springs to its coasts. More than 2,700 Floridians had signed a petition urging the commission not to approve the weaker standards.