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Elizabeth Djinis
By Elizabeth Djinis October 21, 2022

DeSantis takes early steps to stop fracking, but progress stalls in state Legislature

Even before he entered office, Gov. Ron DeSantis promised to urge Florida's Legislature to ban hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking, statewide. 

"With Florida's geological makeup of limestone and shallow water sources, fracking presents a danger to our state that is not acceptable," the governor's campaign website read, adding that fighting fracking was a Day One action.

Almost all of the action DeSantis took on fracking occurred shortly after he became governor. Just two days into his term, DeSantis issued an executive order with several water policy reforms and a line directing the Department of Environmental Protection to push to end all fracking in Florida.

The order instructed the department to "take necessary actions to adamantly oppose all off-shore oil and gas activities off every coast in Florida and hydraulic fracturing in Florida." Fracking injects water, chemicals and sand at ultrahigh pressure to force open layers of rock and unearth the oil (or sometimes natural gas) that's trapped inside.

Florida statute currently prohibits "drilling for exploration or extraction of oil or natural gas" on lands "beneath all state waters which have not been alienated and that lie between the mean high water line and the outermost boundaries of the state's territorial seas," based on a 2018 constitutional amendment that voters approved. 

But fracking still happens in the Gulf of Mexico, according to a 2021 report from the Center for Biological Diversity, even if not near Florida. Since 2010, the federal government has approved fracking more than 3,000 times and acidizing, another oil extraction technique, at least 700 times in the Gulf of Mexico. 

​​Environmental activists oppose fracking because they claim its chemicals, including hydrochloric acid and petroleum distillates, harm the environment and can seep into drinking water supplies. They also argue that fracking can trigger earthquakes.

DeSantis' move would have seemed to be the boon activists wanted, but it resulted in what Floridians Against Fracking Coalition co-chair Kim Ross called "one small chirp at the beginning of his term followed by crickets." 

Ultimately, what that has meant under DeSantis is that all newly issued oil and gas permits include specific provisions prohibiting hydraulic fracturing, according to a department spokesperson. In fact, no oil and gas permit authorizing hydraulic fracturing has been issued during DeSantis' administration. 

DeSantis' office also pointed to the state's 2020 agreement to buy 20,000 acres of Everglades lands that had once been considered for exploratory oil drilling. 

The state's recommendations also led to the withdrawal of a permit application to construct oil and gas well pad in Big Cypress National Preserve.

The other key distinction is whether banning hydraulic fracturing is a sufficient solution to this environmental problem. There is another kind of "well stimulation" technique other than hydraulic fracturing. Acidic fracturing and matrix acidizing work to unearth oil from rock, dissolving it through acid injections. Based on Florida's landscape, acidizing is the more likely method, an article published on the Natural Resources Defense Council's site suggests. Like hydraulic fracturing, the risk of chemical spills from this technique can contaminate Florida's aquifer. 

Activists including Ross say that an effective fracking ban would have to eliminate both hydraulic fracturing and acidizing. But so far, proposed legislation that would ban fracking in Florida has been unsuccessful in every session, whether it encompasses both methods or only one. 

In 2019, multiple bills, including one with bipartisan support, were proposed that would have prohibited fracking in the state, but both failed in Senate committees. For multiple years in a row, state Sen. Gary Farmer, a Broward Democrat, has proposed legislation that would ban fracking or limit it. But these efforts have not succeeded, likely because of oil and gas industry lobbying, Ross said.

Because DeSantis did initially act to stop fracking but ensuing efforts to ban the method statewide have not passed the Legislature, we rate this promise In the Works.

Our Sources

Email interview, Jeremy Redfern, deputy press secretary, Executive Office of the Governor, Oct. 14, 2022

Phone interview, Kim Ross, Floridians Against Fracking coalition co-chair, Sep. 8, 2022

Email interview, Dee Ann Miller, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Oct. 18, 2022

Ron DeSantis Campaign for Governor, Protecting Florida's environment on Day 1

Office of Governor Ron DeSantis, Governor Ron DeSantis Announces Major Water Policy Reforms, Jan. 10, 2019

Encyclopedia Britannica, Fracking definition

Florida Senate, Florida Constitution, Article II, Section 7

Ballotpedia, Florida Amendment 9, Passed Nov. 6, 2018

Center for Biological Diversity, Toxic Waters: How Offshore Fracking Pollutes the Gulf of Mexico, Published July 2021

Orlando Weekly, Florida is buying 20,000 acres of Everglades to protect it from oil drilling, Jan. 19, 2020

Tampa Bay Times, Oil company wants to build wells in Big Cypress National Preserve, Feb. 4, 2021

WUSF News, While one company challenges the denial of its oil drilling application in Big Cypress Swamp, another withdraws its application, Feb. 23, 2022

National Resources Defense Council, Florida's Proposed Fracking Ban Incomplete Without Acidizing, April 9, 2019

Florida Senate, SB 7064, Filed Feb. 25, 2019

Florida Senate, SB 314, Filed Jan. 14, 2019

Florida Senate, Senator Gary M. Farmer

Florida Senate, SB 546, Filed Jan. 12, 2021

Florida Senate, SB 208, Bill text

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