Pasco County commissioners approved a resolution seeking a state legislative moratorium on hydraulic fracking, and a study commission to review the pros and cons of the controversial method of drilling for oil and natural gas.
According to the resolution, public hearings also should be held, and the study commission should include representatives from the Florida Association of Counties, environmental groups, concerned citizens, and the oil and gas industries.
But, it took some heavy editing to reach a consensus at the commissioners’ meeting on Nov. 17.
Commissioners deleted several passages on scientific data that troubled Pasco Chairwoman Kathryn Starkey.
“I would like to get two sides of the scientific data,” she said. “I’ve only had one.”
However, she added, “I think we all want a moratorium.”
Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore also has mixed feelings on the issue. But, he said, “I think there does need to be a study.”
During fracking, chemically treated high-pressure water is pumped into a drilled pipeline to break apart rock formations to extract oil or natural gas.
Supporters say fracking is a safer extraction method than mining for coal, and provides a cleaner source of fuel. Opponents say fracking leads to water contamination, and increases the risks of sinkholes and earthquakes.
Garden club members had hoped for a more forceful resolution from Pasco’s commissioners, but said they were glad the commissioners brought attention to the issue.
The club members are concerned about State and House bills expected to be voted on during the 2016 legislative session that begins in January.
The bills place control of fracking with the state, leaving local governments with no “opt out” clause.
Such a clause is among the requests in the county’s approved resolution. But, when Starkey inquired if the state legislature could deny home rule, Pasco County Attorney Jeffrey Steinsnyder said, “Yes. They’re the state legislature.”
The bills also require a $1 million study of the risks and hazards of fracking by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. The study would be due by June 30, 2017. The DEP then could adopt rules for issuing permits for fracking.
“There is no moratorium,” said Pat Carver, environmental chairwoman of the garden club, referring to the proposed state legislation.
The bills aim to write the rules to approve fracking, said Peggy Woods, a garden club member. “Once the horse is out the barn, there’s nothing else we can do,” she said.
Published November 25, 2015