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Fact-checking Nikki Haley’s debate attack on Ron DeSantis about fracking, drilling

Nikki Haley, left, argues a point with Ron DeSantis during a Republican presidential primary debate.
Mark J. Terrill
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, left, argues a point with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during a Republican presidential primary debate hosted by FOX Business Network and Univision, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

WLRN has partnered with PolitiFact to fact-check Florida politicians. The Pulitzer Prize-winning team seeks to present the true facts, unaffected by agenda or biases.

In her call to move the U.S. toward "energy independence," former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley accused one of her Republican rivals — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — of opposing fracking and drilling.

"What you don’t need is a president who is against energy independence. Ron DeSantis is against fracking. He's against drilling," Haley said during the Sept. 27 GOP presidential primary debate in Simi Valley, California.

Haley said that DeSantis "always talks about what happens on Day 1. You better watch out because what happens on Day 2 is when you're in trouble. Day 2 in Florida, you banned fracking, you banned offshore drilling, you did it on federal lands and you took green subsidies that you didn't have to take."

DeSantis interrupted Haley twice: "That’s not true," he said.

Fracking injects water, chemicals and sand at ultrahigh pressure to force open layers of rock and unearth the oil (or sometimes natural gas) that's trapped inside.

We found that Haley omitted context. As DeSantis ran for governor in 2018, he campaigned on banning hydraulic fracturing and oil drilling off Florida’s coast. That year, voters also approved a constitutional amendment to ban drilling. DeSantis continues to oppose fracking and oil drilling off Florida’s coast, but says he isn’t against it elsewhere.

DeSantis promised in 2018 to ban fracking and oil drilling

During DeSantis’ gubernatorial run, he promised on his campaign website to "work to ban fracking" in Florida and "fight to prevent oil drilling off Florida’s coast."

His campaign website at the time said: "With Florida’s geological makeup of limestone and shallow water sources, fracking presents a danger to our state that is not acceptable. On Day 1, Ron DeSantis will advocate to the Florida Legislature to pass legislation that bans fracking in the state."

Two days into his first term, DeSantis issued an executive order with several water policy reforms and directed the Department of Environmental Protection to push to end all fracking in Florida.

He instructed the department to "take necessary actions to adamantly oppose all offshore oil and gas activities off every coast in Florida and hydraulic fracturing in Florida."

Food and Water Watch, a group advocating for clean water, praised DeSantis’ order: "We are very happy to see the governor fulfilling the promise that he made on the campaign trail to protect Florida’s water by banning fracking statewide."

But as DeSantis noted during the Sept. 27 debate, it was Florida voters in 2018 who approved an amendment to ban offshore oil and gas drilling.

Based on the amendment, Florida statute prohibits "drilling for exploration or extraction of oil or natural gas" on lands "beneath all state waters which have not been alienated and that lie between the mean high water line and the outermost boundaries of the state's territorial seas."

PolitiFact tracked DeSantis’ promise and rated it In the Works near the end of his first term. His executive order required newly issued oil and gas permits to include specific provisions prohibiting hydraulic fracturing.

Environmental activists previously told PolitiFactthat an effective fracking ban would have to eliminate both hydraulic fracturing and acidizing, another oil extraction technique. But by the end of 2022, proposed legislation that would ban fracking in Florida had been unsuccessful in every session, whether it encompassed both methods or only one.

During his presidential campaign, DeSantis has shown some support for fracking and drilling, but not in Florida.

In August, as he spoke about his economic plan, a reporter asked DeSantis, "On energy, where do you stand now when it comes to bans on fracking and offshore drilling?"

DeSantis said that because Florida is a coastal state that has had oil spills, it has a constitutional amendment that prohibits offshore drilling, "and so that's something that we honor."

But DeSantis said that what applies in Florida doesn’t necessarily need to apply everywhere.

"And so when we're doing that, that is not saying that I think that should apply to Louisiana or Texas and all that. So, that will continue. And we want them to be able to do it, and we also want them to be able to use hydraulic fracturing," DeSantis said.

In a September speech in Texas, DeSantis said that, as president, he would "greenlight oil and gas drilling extraction."

DeSantis again said that although Florida has a constitutional amendment to prevent oil and gas exploration offshore, "that doesn't mean that other states, you know, shouldn't do it. It's really up to them what they want to do."

DeSantis’ campaign officials reiterated to PolitiFact that voters approved the amendment to ban offshore oil and gas drilling.

Our ruling

Haley said DeSantis "is against fracking. He is against drilling."

During his 2018 campaign for governor, DeSantis promised to ban fracking in Florida and prevent oil drilling off the state’s coast.

In 2018, Florida voters also approved a constitutional amendment to ban offshore drilling for oil and natural gas on lands beneath state waters.

As a presidential candidate, DeSantis says he will honor Florida’s ban, but is open to fracking elsewhere.

The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context. We rate it Half True.

PolitiFact Staff Writer Samantha Putterman contributed to this fact-check.

RELATED: Fact-check: What Republican candidates claimed in the second presidential primary debate

Our Sources

PolitiFact Staff Writer Samantha Putterman contributed to this fact-check.

Amy Sherman is a staff writer with PolitiFact based in South Florida. She was part of the team that launched PolitiFact Florida in 2010 and was part of the PolitiFact team during the 2016 election.
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