Dade City could soon join other local governments around Florida that are approving laws to ban the practice of extracting oil or natural gas through fracking.
Currently, eight counties and four cities in the state have banned fracking, including Seminole and Alachua counties, and the cities of St. Petersburg and Cape Coral.
Dade City’s City Commission held a first public hearing on its proposed ordinance on July 26. A second public hearing and a vote on the ordinance is scheduled for Aug. 9.
Fracking is 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.
“It’s very dangerous,” said Sally Redden, a member of the Dade City Garden Club. “No one really knows all of the chemicals because they are trade secrets.”
To date, the industry has blocked efforts to require public notification of what chemicals are used.
Opponents say fracking leads to water contamination, and increases the potential for sinkholes and earthquakes.
Supporters say fracking is safer than coal mining and produces a cleaner energy source.
But, the issue is stirring controversy nationwide.
Most recently it bubbled up during anti-fracking demonstrations at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
Last year, Dade City’s elected officials approved a resolution opposing a bill that would give the state sole authority to regulate fracking and leave local governments with no way to opt out.
The bill passed in the Florida House, but fell short by one vote in the Senate.
Anticipating the 2017 legislative session, fracking opponents are pushing now for stronger measures than the approximately 75 resolutions approved statewide last year.
The Dade City Garden Club again is spearheading efforts locally after winning approvals on resolutions from Dade City and the Pasco County commissioners.
A few months ago, they reached out and got support from Dade City Mayor Camille Hernandez for the ordinance.
“We’re trying to be proactive and join other Florida cities that are looking out for the health, welfare and safety of citizens,” said Hernandez, in a phone interview.
Garden club members provided research on fracking to city commissioners as they did prior to last year’s resolution, the mayor said.
“This is really the next step,” she added. “It’s a great example of teamwork.”
Redden anticipates similar efforts with Pasco’s commissioners.
Dade City Attorney Karla Owens drafted the anti-fracking ordinance, which also bans storage, as well as disposal of waste from fracking operations.
Owens said that would help block companies from fracking in other counties and then hauling toxic waste produced during the process to sites in Dade City. In some cases, the waste is injected into underground disposal wells or treated off-site before being discharged into surface waters.
There are competing legislative bills on both sides of the issue.
“It’s hard to know what the legislature is going to do,” Owens said.
So, as a hedge against legal challenges, the ordinance invokes the city’s zoning and land use authority, declaring that fracking isn’t a permitted use within city limits.
Dade City’s ordinance mirrors one from a town in New York that successfully defended against a challenge to its fracking ban by citing local zoning law.
Zoning regulations typically are the kind of local control granted to municipalities and not revocable by the state, Owens said.
Published August 3, 2016