Some Florida counties are saying “No Fracking Way” to fracking within their borders.
The Florida House passed a bill Wednesday that allows the state to authorize and regulate fracking, the controversial process of high-pressure drilling into the Earth and pumping large volumes of water, sand and chemicals to release gas and oil deposits.
The bill, HB 191, doesn’t require fracking companies to disclose the chemicals used and prohibits local communities from passing bans or regulations on the practice.
But this hasn’t stopped Florida counties from trying.
According to Floridians Against Fracking, 41 cities and 27 counties have passed or planned on passing regulations against fracking, including Alachua, Union, Marion and Putnam County.
Putnam County unanimously passed a resolution supporting a statewide ban on fracking and the disposal of its related waste on Jan. 26, the day before HB 191 passed with a 73-45 vote at the Florida House.
“I believe the biggest influence on the board’s decision was a presentation by an organization called Floridians Against Fracking,” wrote Putnam County Attorney Stacey Manning in an email.
Floridians Against Fracking is a coalition of Florida residents concerned with the process’s threat to the environment.
The grassroots effort organized “No Fracking Way” rallies in 9 cities on Saturday, including Tallahassee, Orlando, Miami and Gainesville.
About 300 people came together to urge state senators to vote against its pro-fracking partner bill, SB 318. If the bill does not pass in the Senate, local municipalities will once again be able to use zoning and land use laws to restrict fracking industries from setting up within their borders.
“The state Senate has generally been way more skeptical about the bill,” said Jorge Aguilar, the Florida Director of Food and Water Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based non-governmental organization and consumer rights group that is one of the founders of Floridians Against Fracking.
“Fracking poses real dangers to our environment and public health,” Aguilar said. “Across the country, it has significantly contributed to air pollution, skin conditions and water contamination.”
The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners expressed a desire to have an anti-fracking ordinance too. The board was in the middle of drafting a resolution when the state ban against local regulations passed.
“Now we have to wait and see how it shapes out in Tallahassee to finish our work,” said Mark Sexton, the communications and legislative affairs director for Alachua County. “We have a lot of our residents involved in this, and we’re urging Senator Bradley to vote against it.”
The Marion County Board of County Commissioners also planned on passing an ordinance against fracking.
“We would be particularly concerned about any potential fracking because of our vulnerable aquifer in Marion County that supplies all of our drinking water and is the source of our world renowned springs,” wrote Stacie Causey, the county’s public information specialist, in an email.
The bill could make fracking effective in Florida as early as 2017.
“The long-term effects are far too dangerous,” Aguilar said. “This bill takes away the authority of local authorities to protect their citizens.”