Monday, March 30, 2015

ALERT! Fracking and Septage in Senate Committee on Tuesday - Calls Needed Now!

The Senate Environmental Protection and Conservation Committee will hear two bills on fracking and one bill to repeal the prohibition on the land application of septage (what is pumped out of septic tanks).  The bills will be heard on Tuesday, March 31 at 1:30 p.m.  Please call Committee members and urge them to vote NO on these bills.  Talking points are below the committee contact information.

Note: Sen. Evers is the sponsor of the Land Application of Septage bill (SB 648) so it would be better not to ask him to vote against his own bill.  However, asking him to withdraw it would be appropriate.   To avoid confusion I have aggregated the committee emails without  including Sen. Evers’ address.  His email is provided in the committee list.

                 Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation 2015
Sen. Charles Dean, Chair                850-487-5005
Sen. Wilton Simpson, V. Chair     850-487-5018
Sen. Thad Altman                             850-487-5016
Sen. Greg Evers                                 850-487-5002
Sen. Alan Hays                                   850-487-5011
Sen. David Simmons                        850-487-5010
Sen. Christopher Smith                  850-487-5031
Sen. Darren Soto                               850-487-5014 

(Sen. Evers is  not included in this aggregated list.),,,,,,,

Talking points:
SB 0648  by Senator Evers—Land Application of Septage
This bill would eliminate the scheduled prohibition against land applying septage (and all the nutrients it contains).  Currently these application sites are under the Department of Health (DOH) and regulations are directed at preventing the spread of disease, not algae causing nitrite - nitrates.  Those nutrients can either infiltrate to groundwater or run off into water bodies.

There are 88 DOH permitted land application sites and almost 2/3 of them are in the Springs Protection Area.  This area has highly karstic geology (fractured limestone) that is known for sinkholes and conduits that can rapidly convey groundwater to springs.

The bill ignores water quality issues completely and doubles down on the least important issues such as requiring electronic pH meters instead of paper strips.  (Lime is added to septage to kill pathogens by raising the pH level to 12 for two hours or 12.5 for 30 minutes, but changing the pH does nothing to remove nitrogen or phosphorous from septage.  And electronic pH meters won’t do anything about nutrients either.)

There is no requirement in the current rule (64E-6.010) to measure how much of the nutrient load is absorbed by vegetation, and it even permits spreading septage on unvegetated soil.  A good strong rain will drive those nutrients down toward the groundwater and aquifer. 

Prohibiting the land application of septage in the Everglades area has proved effective in reducing groundwater contamination there.  Surely our springs deserve the same protection.

The two fracking bills have to be considered together - they are inextricably linked.   

SB 1468 by Senator Richter—Regulation of Oil and Gas Resources
This bill would require a permit for fracking (very narrowly defined) and offer inadequate regulation of the practice.  No regulation or permitting regime can guarantee Florida’s drinking water will not be contaminated and with the availability of renewable energy there is no good reason to expose residents and visitors to this risk. 

SB 1582 by Senator Richter—Public Records/High-pressure Well Stimulation Chemical Disclosure Registry
This bill would prevent citizens from finding out what toxic chemicals are being injected into the ground and threatening contamination of the water supply under the guise of protecting “proprietary business information” from misappropriation by other well operators.  It puts a blindfold on residents who want to protect their family’s health and their property’s value.

Fracking Issues aside from … Dare I say it? … “climate change”
·         There is no way to be sure of identifying and adequately plugging/recasing/sealing all possible abandoned wells within a sufficient radius of the fracking well and horizontal branches (this must take subterranean natural faults into consideration as well as man-made conduits.  Yet casings fail.  All technologies fail eventually in some number of cases.  While the probability of failure may be small, the risk is huge - contaminating the aquifer people use for drinking water would be catastrophic.   

·         Physicians and first responders have no way of getting information to save the lives of victims in case of an accident, or to protect themselves from exposure to toxins.

·         'Proprietary business information' or 'trade secrets' non-disclosure provisions deny citizens the right to know about, and do something about, what may be a proximate threat to their health, safety, and property.

·         There are no federal protections from fracking’s impact on drinking water thanks to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that exempted fracking from regulation of underground injection in the Safe Drinking Water Act (the Halliburton loophole).  Numerous other exemptions for fracking have been adopted at the federal level: the Clean Air Act; the Clean Water Act; the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act; the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act; the National Environmental Policy Act; and the Toxic Release Inventory of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.