The Florida House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee voted 8-4 on Tuesday in support of two bills that would require disclosure of chemicals used in fracking. While not as shale rich as its neighboring states to the west, Florida contains parts of several shale formations including the Lower Sunniland and Tuscaloosa Marine Shale.
The first bill, HB 71, would establish the "Fracturing Chemical Usage Disclosure Act" directing the Department of Environmental Protection ("DEP") to establish and maintain an "online fracturing chemical registry" for all wells on which fracking is performed. The registry would be required to include, at a minimum, the total volume of water used in the fracking treatment and the specific chemical ingredients for each well. Operators and vendors would be required to report this information within 60 days of initiating fracking operations for each well.
The second bill, HB 157, is linked to the passage of HB 71 and would create a public records exemption for trade secrets relating to fracking treatments in connection with the registry. Under HB 157, persons submitting information to the DEP could request that the information be kept confidential by providing a basis for the claim of trade secret and marking each portion of a document containing claimed trade secrets. Upon receiving a public record request for that information, DEP would notify the information provider, who would then have 30 days to file a court action seeking an order barring disclosure. Failure to file an action within 30 days would constitute a waiver of any claim to confidentiality.
Both bills received favorable party line votes with eight republicans voting yea and four democrats voting nay. The bills' sponsor, Ray Rodriguez (R-Estero) called the bills a proactive approach to provide public information about what is going into the ground, rather than getting into the larger debate of fracking. Opponents of the bills claim that the appearance of disclosure will provide companies the cover needed to move forward with fracking in Florida. Similar disclosure bills failed in the 2013 legislative session when the trade secrets exemption received strong democratic opposition and died in the House.
Coverage is available here.
Analysis of HB 71 is available here.
Analysis of HB 157 is available here.
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