Correction: A previous version of this article with the headline "Orange County Commission bans fracking" said Commissioners "passed a unanimous resolution banning hydraulic fracturing." Commissioners actually passed a resolution opposing pro-fracking bills from the Florida Legislature and opposing regulations in the county, according to county spokeswoman Doreen Overstreet
. We regret the error.
Orange County Commissioners sent a clear message to Tallahassee on Tuesday: No fracking in our backyard.
The Commission passed a unanimous resolution opposing hydraulic fracturing, which is the controversial process of extracting gas and oil from underground by injecting water, sand and chemicals into rock formations. Environmentalists and opponents of the practice say it affects water quality and could impact Florida's unique geology.
Although a bill has been filed in the Florida Legislature banning fracking, pro-fracking legislation was also filed in the House and Senate. The pro-fracking bills would preempt "the regulation of all matters relating to the exploration, development, production, processing, storage, and transportation of oil and gas." If a city has a fracking ban, this bill would void those existing ordinances and regulations, unless they are certain, still undeclared, zoning ordinances that were in place before Jan. 1, 2015.
The resolution approved in Orange County was not as strong as originally written. Commissioner Ted Edwards brought up concerns at the meeting regarding the board's authority to push legislators for a permanent statewide ban without enough scientific evidence about fracking.
"I agree with the intent of the resolution to protect home rule and allow them to ban fracking to the extent we thought it was necessary," he says. "What I have problems with in the resolution is a lot of this pertains to matters of science. Do we have enough knowledge to urge the Florida Legislature to do a statewide moratorium?...I don't see what credibility we can have with the Legislature."
Commissioner Scott Boyd agreed with Edwards, saying he didn't have the scientific knowledge to encourage the state to ban the practice in other counties with different soil types. Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Commissioner Pete Clarke disagreed, saying the original resolution should pass because there was enough proof that fracking would be bad for Florida.
"The language [in the bills] impeding local control is some of the more draconian language I've seen," Clarke says. "We need to have a say on what happens in our backyard."
Edwards added an amendment to the resolution that instead of encouraging the Legislature to take steps to permanently ban these processes, would ban fracking until scientific research shows it to be an environmentally sound method. The amendment passed with Jacobs and Clarke in opposition.