Sarasota News Leader

01/31/2014

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known as the "SLAPP suit" — a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. When opponents with limited means find them- selves the defendants in these predatory legal actions, brought by corporations with very deep pockets, the results are fairly predict- able … and dissent virtually evaporates. Against this horrific backdrop, our Legislature is straining to do the oil and gas industry's bid- ding by passing legislation to allow fracking in the Sunshine State. Specifically, two bills working their way through committees in the Legislature would give the oil and gas indus- try some protection from scrutiny over its practices: House Bill 71 and House Bill 157. HB 71 ostensibly sets up procedures for the "disclosure" of the substances used in frack- ing fluid. However, the bill provides for that reporting to be to a private, Web-based ser- vice, FracFocus.org, which is owned and operated by the oil and gas industry, through the aegis of a stooge organization carrying the misnomer Groundwater Protection Council (GPC). The GPC is not a government agency working to protect residents from environ- mental disaster; it is a private industry entity seeking to insulate that industry from the repercussions of irresponsible acts that harm the environment. Even worse, HB 157 provides numerous exemptions to the oil and gas industry, allowing it to withhold the disclosure of any chemicals used in its fracking fluids that are considered a "trade secret." This is the same strategy that has hamstrung efforts in Pennsylvania and other states to determine the extent to which those chemicals have harmed the groundwater supplies in the areas where fracking has been pursued. The industry has learned that a friendly, Republican-dominated legislature can codify industry nondisclosure in obsequiously mis- leading legislation. That is what is happening in Florida at present. Everyone, from the President of the United States on down, is excited about how natu- ral gas can be a much cleaner energy source than other forms of fossil fuels. And there is much excitement about the extensive natural gas reserves that exist in our country, which offer us the prospect of energy independence, a strategic goal for more than four decades. However, the dark secret is that the extraction of that natural gas via fracking will, in too many instances, leave the landscape ruined, with polluted groundwater and a barren landscape. Florida may indeed have untold riches in oil and natural gas thousands of feet below its surface. But using fracking to get to those resources will destroy everything about the state that makes it such a paradise. In fact, it will reduce the state to an uninhabitable CLICK TO WATCH THE VIDEO OPINION Sarasota News Leader January 31, 2014 Page 79

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