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Doctors to Lawmakers: Slow the Rush to Frack

Critics say legislation to allow fracking in the state is moving too quickly. (Ostroff Law//Wikimedia Commons)
February 4. 2016
Critics say legislation to allow fracking in the state is moving too quickly. (Ostroff Law//Wikimedia Commons)

TAMPA, Fla. - State senators are poised to vote on a bill that would roll out the welcome mat for fracking operations statewide, despite grave concerns from the scientific community. The bill, which already passed the state House, would not require fracking companies to disclose the chemicals or potential carcinogens used in the process.

Dr. Lynn Ringenberg of Tampa is the national president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, and she says the speed with which the legislation is moving is alarming.

"They're asking the citizens of Florida to be guinea pigs, and I'm a pediatrician and I say you're asking us to trade the health of our children and grandchildren to make you wealthy," says Ringenberg.

Supporters of the bill say it could lead to greater energy independence, and argue oil and gas drilling has been done in Florida for decades. Fracking, however, involves the controversial practice of blasting large amounts of water, chemicals and sand into the ground for oil and gas recovery, which critics say comes with a high risk of water and air contamination.

Dozens of municipalities across Florida already have passed measures prohibiting fracking or calling for a resolution for a statewide ban on the practice. But, as Ringenberg notes, the current legislation would bar local governments from making those decisions.

"These bills would pre-empt that," she says. "And so communities wouldn't have a right to say 'No, I don't want oil and gas fracking in my community.' That really is a dangerous precedent, I think."

The legislation would require the state Department of Environmental Protection to undertake a study that would include looking at potential risks and economic benefits of the process. The fracking bill was passed along party lines in the Republican-dominated House last week. Its next stop in the Senate is the Appropriations Committee.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - FL