Earlier this week, the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill targeted at hydraulic fracturing. The bill, H.B. 1205, would heighten the regulatory requirements on fracking. The bill passed easily with a sizeable majority voting in favor of the bill. 82 members of the House of Representatives voted in favor of passing the bill and 34 members voted against enacting the bill.
Under H.B. 1205, operators would be required to obtain a fracking permit before engaging in fracking operations. Moreover, operators would be required to declare that they intend to use hydraulic fracturing before beginning any drilling operations. In comparison, the current rules only require operators to receive a general drilling permit. The current rules also permit operators to wait until drilling operations have commenced to notify the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) that they intend to use hydraulic fracturing.
In addition, H.B. 1205 provides for a stricter permit approval process and additional disclosure requirements. The new bill authorizes the FDEP to examine the history of parties applying for fracking permits. In fact, H.B. 1205 would permit the FDEP to base its decision on an applicant’s actions in other states. The current regulatory scheme does not permit the FDEP to use an applicant’s out-of-state conduct as a basis for approval or denial of a fracking permit. H.B. 1205 would also increase the fines for violations and the bond minimums. Furthermore, H.B. 1205 mandates that companies disclose any chemicals injected into the ground.
The new bill requires the FDEP to conduct a study on hydraulic fracturing. Specifically, the FDEP’s study must address the potential connection between hydraulic fracturing and groundwater and whether recycled water can be used during fracking operations. Additionally, the study must examine the disposal process for fluids.
Thus far, the bill has received mixed reviews. Some observers have championed the bill as a method of preventing violations. Opponents of the bill have argued that the bill should be replaced with a ban against hydraulic fracturing. Other commentators have suggested that H.B. 1205 prioritizes business interests over public health.
Read H.B. 1205.