The Seminole County Commission approved an anti-fracking ordinance Tuesday while both denouncing the hydraulic fracturing oil and gas drilling technology and the Florida Legislature for taking up bills that would restrict local decisions about it.
The all-Republican commission (in a non-partisan county) voted unanimously on an ordinance that bans “any oil and gas exploration that uses well stimulation within the boundaries and below the geographic territory of Seminole County.”
Commissioner Lee Constantine, a former state senator, declared that the ordinance goes far beyond what most cities and counties have done with other anti-fracking measures.
“What we have in front of us… is an actual ban in this county. The other counties have a resolution against it. We are banning it, and there’s a big difference between the two things,” Constantine said.
He and Commissioners Brenda Carey and John Horan also spoke out against “Tallahassee,” where House Bill 191 and Senate Bill 318 aim to strip local governments of some of the power they may have to regulate fracking.
The House of Representatives last week approved HB 191 73 to 45. Three of Seminole County’s representatives, Bob Cortes, Scott Plakon and Jason Brodeur, voted yes, with Mike Miller voting no. All are Republicans.
“It really kind of burns me up that we have to put laws on the books to keep the people in Tallahassee from doing things that are not best for our community,” Carey said. “I’m in support of this ordinance because I don’t think fracking is good for Seminole County. I don’t think fracking is good in general. But it really annoys me that we have to put laws on the books because of what is going on in Tallahassee to preempt them from doing things that are damaging to Seminole County.”
The commission approved the measure after a public hearing in which numerous speakers spoke in support, many of them expressing concern for the Florida aquifer, and none spoke in opposition.
David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council, later called the commission’s action “a mistake.”
Mica said the commission did not reach out to his organization or anyone else in the industry, and the petroleum council did not attend the meeting because, “we just don’t have time to reach out to each and every one” of the hundreds of cities and counties in Florida.
One thing he and many of the Seminole speakers agreed upon: there are no known oil and gas reserves beneath Seminole, so there’s not much likelihood of fracking there to being with. The oil industry is chiefly interested in far northwest and far southwest Florida.
“Hydraulic fracturing engineering technology has been used over a million times in the United States and it has an excellent track record,” Mica said. There is, “Extremist hype associated with it, it’s taking place, when it is taking place in Florida, more than two miles below the aquifer, and there is layer after layer of impermeable rock.”