Research & Commentary: Hydraulic Fracturing in Florida

Published March 18, 2013

The Florida Legislature is considering a bill that would allow and regulate the use of a technology that has revolutionized the United States’ energy outlook: hydraulic fracturing. Advancements in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have led to a boom in domestic oil and natural gas production, presenting immense economic potential for state and local economies.

Florida produces both oil and natural gas, particularly in the southwest region and Panhandle. Opponents of using hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” for energy production claim the technology would threaten public health through potential contamination of underground water tables used for drinking water supplies.

Although hydraulic fracturing has never been utilized in Florida, data from the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission, a multistate government agency, found more than 8,000 wells have been fracked in Alabama, contiguous to the Panhandle, since the 1940s, and no harm to groundwater has ever been recorded. Several other state and federal regulators have likewise stated they know of no case where hydraulic fracturing has contaminated groundwater.

A report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology explains why: “The shallow layers are protected from injected fluid by a number of layers of casing and cement—and as a practical matter fracturing operations cannot proceed if these layers of protection are not fully functional. Good oil-field practice and existing legislation should be sufficient to manage this risk.”

According to Information Handling Services, in 2012 unconventional oil and gas activity generated more than $180 million in state and local taxes and supported 36,500 jobs in Florida. By 2020 that jobs number is expected to rise to just over 65,000 if current policies remain intact. By allowing hydraulic fracturing in Florida, legislators have a unique opportunity to accelerate both employment and tax-revenue growth in the state.

The following documents provide additional information about the safety and benefits of hydraulic fracturing.


Ten Principles of Energy Policy
Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast outlines the ten most important principles for policymakers confronting energy issues, providing guidance to help withstand ongoing changes in markets, technology, and policies adopted in other states, supported by a thorough bibliography. 

Natural Gas Development and Hydraulic Fracturing: A Policymaker’s Guide
Jacquelyn Pless, a policy associate with the National Conference of State Legislatures, offers a primer on hydraulic fracturing, how it is applied, and what policymakers need to know. 

DEQ on Fracking—’Not a Single Incident in 60 Years and 12,000 Wells’
Brad Wurfel, a scientist and communications director for Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality, tells the Rockford Squire that claims about dangers of hydraulic fracturing have been exaggerated. 

State Regulators on Hydraulic Fracturing
Statements regarding hydraulic fracturing, submitted for government records by state regulators, verify that no case of groundwater contamination due to the process has occurred in their states. 

Alabama State Progress—Hydraulic Fracturing
Statistics from the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission, a multistate government agency, show not a single case of harm to groundwater has been recorded in Alabama from the more than 8,000 wells that were “fracked” over a span of more than 60 years in the state. 

The Future of Natural Gas
An interdisciplinary report published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology examines the role of natural gas in meeting future demand in a carbon-constrained economy. The report comments on hydraulic fracturing as a means to extract energy from shale, and it states groundwater contamination from fracking is impossible because of the deep layers of impermeable rock and multiple vertical layers of steel casing and cement. 

America’s New Energy Future: The Unconventional Oil and Gas Revolution and the U.S. Economy
The energy and engineering consulting firm IHS, Inc. highlights the economic contributions of unconventional oil and gas development such as hydraulic fracturing. 

Shale Gas by the Numbers
Yale University economic researchers report the results of their cost-benefit analysis of shale gas drilling, concluding the economic benefit exceeds the cost to the community by a ratio of 400 to one.


Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. For further information on this and other topics, visit the Environment & Climate News Web site at, The Heartland Institute’s Web site at, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database, at

If you have any questions about this issue or The Heartland Institute, contact Heartland Institute Policy Analyst Taylor Smith at [email protected] or 312/377-4000.