Florida Paves the Way For Fracking As Miami Senator Files Bill to Ban Practice

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Across the country, strong resistance has cropped up against the oil extraction process known as fracking, or hydraulic fracturing. Even a single fracking job requires a staggering amount of water, as well as an abundance of toxic chemicals. Some evidence suggests the "fracking fluid" that has to be injected deep into the ground to release natural gas from shale deposits can leak into fragile environments.

But Florida public officials are cool with all that. Yesterday the Florida Public Service Commission, the board that regulates state utilities, voted by a four to one margin to approve Florida Power and Light's request to "explore" for fracking sites as a cheaper alternative to run its power plants -- and pass of the cost of the exploration onto customers.

The idea is that if suitable fracking sites are found, customers could end up soon saving -- wait for it -- two dollars a year, according to commissioners, the Tampa Tribune reported.

"The question is not what you think about fracking," Commissioner Ronald Brisé, who supported the move, told the Tribune, but rather, "do we have the tools to ensure that customers would be getting the best deal, all of the time?"

That best deal, though, would come only after FPL customers foot an estimated $750 million for the exploration project. The company argues customers would, of course, end up saving money down the road -- but only $.16 per bill for an average customer by 2016.

There is also fresh opposition in Florida: Earlier this week, two Florida lawmakers, state Senators Darren Soto and Dwight Bullard, who represents Miami, introduced legislation to ban fracking entirely in Florida.

"We are a beautiful state," Bullard told NPR affiliate WGCU, "that has so much to lose from fracking and so little to gain from a few small areas that it's actually just disgraceful that we would allow it here."

While over the past several years fracking has spread throughout the United States, and contributed to lower energy costs, there's also been a rising tide of criticism against the controversial practice because of environmental and health concerns.

Just this week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced he was banning fracking in that state.

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