It's official: Pinellas Commission bans fracking

A resolution passed unanimously on Tuesday.

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Pinellas County Commissioners unanimously voted to pass a resolution banning the practice of hydraulic fracturing, also referred to as fracking.

As has been the case with numerous cities and counties, Pinellas rushed to pass the (somewhat symbolic) ban ahead of the next legislative session, in which lawmakers are once again likely to take up a bill "regulating" (read: legalizing) the practice in Florida while barring local governments from passing such bans.

Their apparent rationale?

Companies are going to come to the state and do it anyway, as one did in Collier County, so they may as well regulate the practice.

To environmentalists, the thought of oil and gas exploration taking place using a process that uses the drinking water supply (and an acidic chemical cocktail) to break up parts of the Earth's crust in order to extract fossil fuels is appalling.

“It's a dangerous development in this new exploration of shale gas — around the country, but it would also be dangerous here in Florida," said Susan Glickman, Florida director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “Each of the past three decades have consecutively been the warmest in the past 120,000 years. We are at 407.54 parts per million in the atmosphere, and we need to be at around 350. So if that weren't enough, we're going to start fracking all over.”

While Glickman and others are concerned about the fuel's impact on carbon emissions at a time when climate change's impacts are becoming increasingly apparent, she said the specter of methane (i.e., natural gas) leaking into the atmosphere is itself a problem.

“On a time scale, methane is 86 times more potent than carbon emissions," she said. "So we have to keep that in mind why that is so important.”

Jennifer Webb, a Democratic candidate who is challenging State Rep. Kathleen Peters for the State House District 69 seat, said, given lawmakers' apparent indifference to environmental quality on such an issue, local governments are key in passing such protective laws.

“I applaud you for putting our drinking water, our beaches, our health and our environment first, especially since our House of Reps in Tallahassee is not. And it is imperative that our esteemed County Commission acts swiftly,” she said.

Jennifer Rubiello, director of Environment Florida, said not acting now on fracking could be detrimental down the road.

“We live in one of the most beautiful regions in the state and the entire country, and it's our job to do everything we can to protect it, both for ourselves and for future generations, and fracking simply doesn't fit into that picture.”

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