The Florida House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee (FHANRS) has revived two American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bills. One of the bills will require energy companies to disclose fracking chemicals, and the other creates a loophole in that it dictates a trade secrets exemption from chemical disclosure.
Originally, the Fracturing Chemical Usage Disclosure Act (HB 71), was introduced to the Florida state legislature as HB 743 in February 2013. The Florida House passed HB 473 in a 92-19 vote, but the bill never got to the state senate. Now, the bill, reintroduced as HB 71 is steadily working its way through Florida congressional subcommittees as it was passed by the FHANRS by an 8-4 vote. HB 71 has a sister bill and both bills have been endorsed by ExxonMobil.
The Public Records/Fracturing Chemical Usage Disclosure Act (HB 157) has been attached to HB 71. This bill creates a loophole that exempts energy companies from the mandated disclosures as dictated by HB 71 as the fracking chemicals will be considered protected proprietary trade secrets. This covert kind of legislative trickery echoes what became known as the “Halliburton Loophole.”
Dick Cheney, former CEO of Halliburton, was Vice President of the United States when the federal government passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The act was designed to force transparency upon energy companies so environmental groups could report and regulate pollutants released into the environment. Playing favorites, Dick Cheney, who headed the Energy Task Force, allowed the fracking industry a pass deeming the chemicals used as a trade secret.
The Florida bills, introduced by Florida State Representative Ray Rodrigues (R-Ft. Myers), echo legislation passed in Texas in 2011. ALEC has gained a reputation as a ghost-lobbying group acting in the interest of destructive corporations.
ALEC created the ExxonMobil-endorsed Disclosure of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Composition Act that was eventually passed in Texas. The bill posed as pro-transparency legislation, but ended up being a Trojan Horse for fracking companies as there were transparency exemptions to disclosure in the form of trade secret protections. ALEC kept Exxon’s sponsorship of the bill hidden from the public.
There are currently no fracking wells in Florida, but energy companies have increasingly been considering establishing sites in the state. If the Florida legislature allows energy companies to frack in the state, the industry would ravage and destroy Florida’s natural habitats, which have been a major point of pride for the state.
The Dan A. Hughes Company applied for a wastewater injection well permit in Collier County. The proposed operation site is less than 1,000 feet from the Big Cypress drainage basin, which is “in the middle of the Florida panthers’ remaining Everglades habitat.”
Environmental and conservationist groups, like Audubon Florida, say that HB 71 and HB 157 fail to establish environmental standards and alleviate accountability from energy companies that plan to frack in Florida. If fracking is allowed in Florida, the Florida legislature will put in danger hundreds of lawfully protected species and conservation land in the state, not to mention undermine the political platform used by many state politicians.