Last week, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida hosted Cornell University Professor Dr. Tony Ingraffea, as part of its “Evenings with the Conservancy” series who spoke on the “Effects of Unconventional Drilling” on November 8.
Oil & Gas in Southwest Florida
The evening began with an introductory presentation by Nicole Johnson, Director of Environmental Policy at the Conservancy, including a brief history of the oil and gas (mainly oil) industry in Southwest Florida. Oil wells have existed in Southwest Florida since the 1940s, but the industry has not thrived here like it has in other areas, such as the western United States.
The Collier Controversy
The Conservancy played a prominent role in recent controversies involving “alternate extraction” techniques in Collier County in 2013 and 2015. These controversies arose from use of fracking and unconventional extraction techniques at the Hogan Well in eastern Collier County, and resulted in increased public awareness of potential environmental concerns relating to fracking. The Conservancy has identified banning alternate extraction techniques as their #1 priority during the 2018 legislative session.
2018 Bills: H.B. 237/S.B. 462
The Conservancy is encouraging support of Florida H.B. 237, and its companion S.B. 462. If enacted in their present form, all forms of “advanced well stimulation treatment” (including fracking) would be prohibited in Florida.
On November 9th, S.B. 834 was introduced, and would impose penalties of $50,000 per incident on anyone who approves or engages in “extreme well stimulation” (including fracking).
Presentation by Dr. Tony Ingraffea
Dr. Ingraffea is an accomplished scientist who has studied and written about the subject for many years. He presented statistics on Florida’s historical oil and gas production relative to other states; use of solar power in the Sunshine State; and information about methane and CO2 (greenhouse gas) releases from oil and gas operations. Dr. Ingraffea also provided information on countries, states, provinces, and cities and counties that have banned fracking, including:
- In Florida, 40 counties (of 67) and 52 cities have either banned fracking outright, or have passed resolutions opposing it. Collier County has not taken any formal action.
- Florida’s oil production peaked in 1978, when production reached 4 million barrels/month.
- Today there are around 60 producing oil and gas wells in Florida, and they produce around 150,000 barrels/month.
- Every day, the United States consumes around 20 million barrels/day.
Dr. Ingraffea alluded to the United States’ plan to withdraw from the Paris Agreement in his discussion of greenhouse gas emissions, and provided some alarming statistics and projections.
Dr. Ingraffea concluded with a picture of Southwest Florida completely submerged, and he cautioned that Southwest Florida could be under water by 2022 (in five years), if the greenhouse gases and methane from oil and gas production remain on their present course. Amid gasps (and some giggles) from the crowd, he emphasized “these are only projections.”
Takings/Bert Harris Act
The arguments for conservation are compelling and sincere. However, regulation of resources involves striking a balance among competing interest holders. Because of this, in banning extraction techniques, the legislature would be wise to consider potential impacts to mineral rights holders. Failure to do so could lead to takings and Bert Harris Act lawsuits, and the possibility of indeterminable, potentially enormous, liability exposure for state and local governments in Florida.
If you have any questions regarding fracking or land use in Southwest Florida, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 239-344-1371.