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Alachua County Wants to Preemptively Ban Fracking, Even If the State Later Bans That Ban

Will natural gas fracking ever come to Florida the way it has in other areas across the country?

Maybe, maybe not. But Ken Cornell, Alachua County commissioner, doesn't want to wait around to find out. His suggestion in a meeting Tuesday afternoon: the commission should create a law banning the practice throughout the county.

Passing such an ordinance could pre-empt a law — at least in sequence, if not in consequence — making its way through the state legislature that wants to pre-empt local governments from doing exactly what Cornell suggests. HB 191 and SB 318 would remove from local government the power to regulate oil and gas drilling.

"There are bills at the state level, and I think it's important for the counties to express how they feel about oil and gas extraction," Cornell said.

This map from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a federal agency, illustrates a lack of active natural gas shale plays in Florida compared to other well-fracked areas of the United States.

But if that picture changes at some point?

Commissioners Lee Pinkoson and Mike Byerly cautioned against the county putting too much time and energy into planning the ordinance in case the state passes that law anyway.

"I'm assuming that whenever someone actually discovers oil and gas," Byerly said, "that (county ordinance) will be swept aside by the state legislature."

The only person present for public comment, Khali Blount, was in favor of the ordinance.

"I think it's very important you guys make the statement somehow that exploiting carbon is stepping backward," he said.

Ethan is the Managing Editor in the Innovation News Center, home to WUFT News.He is a Pennsylvania native who found a home reporting Florida's stories. Reach him by emailing or calling 352-294-1525.