Food & Water Watch’s “Fracking Endgame: Locked Into Plastics, Pollution, and Climate Chaos” report, released today, gives a comprehensive look at the devastating new fracked gas infrastructure boom across the country, with more than 700 fracking-related projects recently built or queued for development. If this investment in fracked gas continues unchecked, it would lock the country into a fossil-fuel reliant future, with hellish consequences for our communities, cities, and ecosystems.
County Commissioner Pat Kemp presented the report this afternoon at the Hillsborough County Center, alongside an array of activists and community members. “Florida needs to stop building expensive and dirty fossil fuel plants,” said Commissioner Kemp. “We cannot continue to spend over $58 billion dollars a year in fossil fuels that pollute our water and air. It's time for the Sunshine State to harness our own natural resource - the Sun - to generate abundant, low cost, clean energy while creating thousands of new, good-paying jobs.”
Florida is ground zero in the fight to end fracking and build up renewable energy. The state came close to issuing a bipartisan fracking ban this past legislative session, a move which would have guaranteed long-term protection of Floridians’ health, safety, and livelihoods. But now, Florida is slated to introduce 3 new fracked gas power plants in Hillsborough, Citrus, and Broward counties, as well as 3 liquified natural gas (LNG) export terminals. These facilities will endanger Floridians’ health and environment while pumping more and more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, roasting our planet and guaranteeing sea level rise that will erase huge swaths of Florida coastline.
One such facility is TECO’s Big Bend Power Plant, the largest coal-burning power plant in the state, which plans to switch partially to fracked gas. Though corporate representatives tout this move as a transitional step that will marginally decrease carbon emissions, the “Fracking Endgame” report exposes the truth: the time for incremental improvements has come and gone. It’s going to take a radical transition to clean and renewable energy to give Florida, and the planet, a fighting chance.
“TECO is planning to build a 20 ft. seawall around the Big Bend plant,” said Nina Tatlock, an Apollo Beach resident and community activist. “I think they need to tell the community the truth about why they are doing that. They understand sea levels are rising. They want to protect their property, but any long term continued use of fossil fuels is going to doom all of our properties and investments in the Tampa Bay area. If we continue to burn fossil fuels, no amount of sea walls will stop the rising sea levels, the warming of our planet, and the increasing advent of stronger and more devastating storms.”
“We’re horrified by the findings of this new report, but it also inspires us to double down on our push for a statewide fracking ban, and stat,” says Brooke Errett, organizer for the Food & Water Watch in Florida. “Florida’s beautiful coastlines and its vibrant communities are all threatened by these new fracked gas and LNG facilities. We have fought tirelessly stop the production of fracking in Florida, and we will keep that momentum going. We don’t have any time to waste.”
Another consequence of this reckless investment in fracked gas is the ramping up of plastics production worldwide, which is estimated to increase by 40% in the next decade. Single-use plastics are a death sentence for aquatic ecosystems, meaning a huge loss for the marine biodiversity that makes Florida home.
Kent Bailey, Chairperson for the Tampa Bay Group Sierra Club, was another speaker at today’s event, and drove home the need for immediate action. “To act as if it makes no difference,” he said, “To act as if there is any reasonable alternative to doing everything possible to stop carbon pollution immediately, is an insult to both the spirit and the bodies of our grandchildren.”