Thursday's letters: Smarter energy regulation needed

Published Aug. 19, 2015

Energy extraction needs to have limits | Aug. 14, column

Smarter regulation needed

Energy production in Florida holds the promise to boost our economy with jobs and revenue to local communities around the state. Florida is the third-largest energy consumer in America and yet it produces less than 1 percent of the nation's energy supply. This disparity, along with the significant economic potential of energy production, is why energy companies continue to explore mineral resources in promising areas such as southwest Florida.

Florida has missed out on opportunities by failing to keep up with the regulations necessary to govern advances in the industry. For this reason, organizations such as the Associated Industries of Florida have argued for stronger and smarter regulations that would allow for better regulation of the oil and natural gas industry.

This past legislative session, the House and Senate introduced a proposal that would have significantly strengthened the regulatory framework governing the oil and gas industry, requiring a permitting process for high-pressure well-stimulation techniques, ensuring more transparency in the disclosure of chemicals and providing more time to study emerging oil and natural gas production technology. Considering both chambers failed to pass the measure this year, the debate is far from over.

As private landowners may choose to retain the mineral rights on the land where energy exploration and production is taking place, leaders in Tallahassee should continue to honor the legacy of land ownership in the state by strengthening, not weakening, property rights through commonsense regulations.

With the potential for Florida to become a growing energy provider, it's important we have a regulatory framework in place that works for our environment and for our economy. We will continue to further study the issue and advocate for a more forward-thinking regulatory framework for Florida.

Brewster Bevis, Associated Industries of Florida, Tallahassee

Protect our drinking water

Our Florida legislators have once again caved before big money.

The voices and dollars of the oil and gas industry have prevailed, and the injection of acids to extract energy remains unchecked by state law.

The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 prohibited the injection of such highly toxic chemicals until former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was the former chief executive officer of Halliburton, diluted the law by granting a waiver early in the administration of President George W. Bush.

The oil and gas industry stands alone in legally injecting — unchecked — hazardous chemicals into or close to our water supplies. There must be provisions for detailed externally verifiable evaluation on the type and quantity of the injected material and whether the chemical stays in the targeted area.

If the past is any indication, public disclosure from this industry is minimal, at best.

In Florida, we should contact our legislators and urge them to encourage and support development of alternative energy sources.

In the meantime, limits should be added to currently permissible fracking practices, and monitoring by a credible entity should be established in an industry known for its lack of transparency.

Let us be sure to remember this continued willingness by our elected officials to degrade our environment and our drinking water and to legislate practices that almost certainly will adversely affect our health (as has been shown to be true in other states in which fracking has been allowed) and the health of those who follow us.

Eugenia Clark, Temple Terrace

Preparing students for 21st century

STEM grads in demand

As students head back to school this month, I'm reminded that a quality education is quickly becoming the new economic development currency. Florida's students no longer compete with students from other states. They're competing with students from other countries.

As a father of four and a former speaker of the Florida House, I know firsthand that Florida has seen successful education reforms. But more is needed to ensure students are prepared for global competition.

In 2013, 34 of the top 50 U.S. jobs were STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) related. Yet only one-third of bachelor's degrees earned in the United States are in STEM fields, compared with 53 percent in China and 63 percent in Japan. There are more than 60,000 unfilled STEM jobs in Florida. Our state faces a shortage of workers with STEM degrees or certifications.

Improving education for a better workforce is a priority of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. They continue advocating for STEM education, promoting policies that encourage greater interest in STEM-related careers at an early age. A highly educated workforce drives future private-sector job growth. A quality education and workforce development system is the best way to enable all Floridians to compete in a 21st century global economy.

Will Weatherford, Wesley Chapel

Email scandal merits criminal investigation Aug. 19, column

A test of endurance

It appears former U. S. Sen. George LeMieux has bought the Republican playbook hook, line and sinker. As part of the GOP's effort to derail Hillary Clinton, LeMieux has equated the questions surrounding Clinton's email use to the actions of disgraced former President Richard Nixon.

If his unfounded accusations were not so serious, they would be laughable.

It's a long way to Nov. 8, 2016, and if this is any indication of the campaign we can expect, we are in for a rocky ride, indeed. Mrs. Clinton has the steel necessary to withstand these unrelenting aspersions on her character, but does the American electorate have the stomach to endure?

James Donelon, St. Petersburg