Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing; the extraction process that is delivering massive amounts of gas and oil to consumers. For industry, fracking constitutes the biggest energy boom in the continental United States since the oil fields of Texas were discovered in the 1920's. Fracking involves the uses of thousands of wells. It is also a boom for wellfield equipment suppliers like Halliburton. Each well is injected first with a toxic brew; millions of gallons of water and chemicals, including diesel fuel, are injected under pressure thousands of feet underground before the layers yield oil and gas.
One of the claims against fracking is that it exposes drinking water aquifers to toxins. The documentary "Gasland" triggered public awareness and push-back from the domestic oil and gas industry. Here is segment from the film showing a neighbor's water faucet catching fire.
That ought to be illegal, right? The U.S. EPA is charged with protecting drinking water aquifers. Here is where Miami-Dade comes in, in a tangential but important way. In the 1990's Miami-Dade County could no longer cover up that municipal wastewater injected to deep so-called confining zones, just like fracking fluid, was leaking toward the region's drinking water supplies.
At the time, EPA headed off a citizen's lawsuit by initiating a rule change of the Safe Drinking Water Act at the urging of Miami-Dade and the State of Florida. Florida's city and county governments, anxious to serve cheap growth and welded to politics using campaign contributions as electrodes, petitioned the US EPA to change its "non-migration standard". Miami-Dade County lead the way because its sewage treatment facility in South Dade at the edge of Black Point Marina and Biscayne National Park was the nation's largest non-point source polluter in the U.S.
The connection between fracking and municipal disposal of wastewater is underground injection wells that are supposedly "controlled". Controlled by engineering and controlled by law. But there is nothing "controlled" about them. Under the Bush administration, the U.S. EPA simply looked the other way. In Florida, at the direction of then governor Jeb Bush, the state proceeded to accommodate construction and development by shoving billions of gallons of day of scarcely treated municipal waste water into deep zones through so many wells that a map of state injection wells looks like Swiss cheese. (Read "Deep Well Infection" by former Miami New Times and recent Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jake Bernstein, here. As a Sierra Club leader at the time, I hoped common sense would prevail and that government would not speed the weakening of aquifer protections. But it did happen, and with a favorable ruling by Bush appointees on the federal bench.)
The latest news from the New York Times is that a former Bush EPA official, Ben Grumbles, now says that the Bush administration's assurances that fracking was safe "have been exaggerated for years". Now what? Changing our politics that allows the destruction of aquifers through deep wells is like removing a tattoo a thousand yards deep. For that, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals will provide no help.