The City of Zephyrhills has banned fracking, a controversial practice of extracting oil or natural gas.
The Zephyrhills City Council voted unanimously to prohibit the use of land for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, within the city’s limits.
In taking the action, the city is following the lead of other Florida municipalities.
The council’s vote received an ovation from representatives of several environmental groups who were present at the Nov. 14 meeting.
Several Pasco County residents spoke in opposition to fracking, a process of pumping chemically treated high pressure water into a drilled pipeline to break through rock formations to tap into oil or natural gas reserves.
Janice Howie, conservation chairman for the Nature Coast Native Plant Society, called the Zephyrhills fracking ban “a really bold initiative.”
“I don’t think any good comes from fracking,” said Howie, “especially not here in Florida with our aquifer.”
“People in Florida don’t want fracking,” said Pat Carter, a Dade City resident and member of the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs.
“A big problem with fracking is what to do with that polluted water. There’s just no safe way to dispose if it,” Carter said.
The Zephyrhills ordinance says that fracking wastewater, or “flowback,” contains several known contaminants, including naturally occurring radioactivity, heavy metals, hydrocarbon and brine.
Fracking typically uses anywhere from 30,000 gallons to up to 13 million gallons for each drilling operation, the ordinance reads. It also notes that much of Florida’s water supply comes from aquifers in highly permeable limestone formations, which are “vulnerable” to hydraulic fracturing activities.
“I find the idea of fracking in any place in Florida to be alarming,” said Nancy Hazelwood, another Dade City resident. “We should not be doing anything that would possibly avenge our water resources that are so fragile as it is now, especially here in Zephyrhills. Why take the chance on anything that would endanger our water resources?”
Carl Waldron, of Dade City, added that fracking’s perceived economic benefits “isn’t worth the risk.”
Waldron added: “We have many basic needs, and one is clean, accessible water.”
The Dade City Commission unanimously passed an antifracking ordinance in August.
In other business, the council unanimously approved a first reading ordinance to impose a temporary moratorium on the opening of any new cannabis dispensing facilities. If passed on the second reading, the moratorium would expire Nov. 13, 2017.
Florida voters recently approved Amendment 2, which inserts language into the Florida Constitution allowing those with cancer, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy and a host of other conditions to use marijuana, if it is recommended by their doctor.
Zephyrhills’ city attorney Matthew Maggard said he advocated for the moratorium because marijuana laws are “changing so rapidly.” He added the city also needs time “to research the various land use and zoning requirements” related to the amendment.
“We can put an outright ban on it because it’s still federally illegal. I think it’s a good idea to just put a hold on this,” said Maggard.
City manager Steve Spina, agreed, saying: “We thought it was in the best interest to look into it, and then plan on how we think the dispensaries would fit into Zephyrhills.”
Published November 23, 2016