KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – In response to residents’ concerns over lake levels and the Floridan Aquifer, Mayor Tony Brown proposed a local ordinance to ban fracking earlier this month. He said it could be tabled while the …
KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – In response to residents’ concerns over lake levels and the Floridan Aquifer, Mayor Tony Brown proposed a local ordinance to ban fracking earlier this month. He said it could be tabled while the state legislature debates various fracking bills, but Brown wants to see a local ban to protect the environment and take a stand for local control.
“My kids and grandkids are coming up and I want our environment in Keystone Heights to remain as natural as possible. I’m a registered Republican, but I won’t take the party line – I will stand on the frontline if I have to to protect our environment as much as I can,” Brown said.
Fracking is the process of injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks, boreholes beneath the earth’s surface in order to force open existing fissures and extract oil or gas. The issue has become a partisan political controversy with most Republicans supporting the interest of big oil.
Brown is particularly concerned about companion bills in both state chambers that would declare all local fracking ordinances void. State Senator Garrett Richter (R-Naples) and State Representative Ray Rodriques (R-Ft. Myers) have proposed two such bills. Both lawmakers sponsored similar bills in the previous legislative session that died when they failed go garner a two-thirds majority of support.
When Brown brought the matter before city council, members heard an address from Santa Fe Lake Dwellers Association Legislative Chairman Terry Brant who said three different sets of state legislation have been proposed between both chambers – one set to establish fracking, another set to ban fracking and yet another that would put fracking on the ballot for voters’ consideration. The bills by Richter and Rodriques would regulate the practice, but in a way that is ruffling the feathers of those in local government around the state.
“While the state frequently complains about federal regulations and interference in state affairs, the state is doing precisely the same thing to county and city governments, taking away their current right to address local needs, hazards and circumstances, Brant said.
“And while some may say fracking is a partisan political item, it is not. It doesn’t matter if a person is for or against fracking – it’s a matter of the public health, safety and welfare and of maintaining local home rule.”
Regardless of political debates over the role of government, the mayor’s principal concern remains environmental. He said several residents have approached him about this issue, causing him to look into it and act.
“For several months, people have been emailing me with concerns about what’s going on at the state level, so I brought it to council for discussion. I don’t know what council will decide to do – we may end up tabling it, but it’s coming up in Tallahassee and I’d like us to do something before they discuss it in January, Brown said.
“Personally, I don’t want fracking because we’ve worked so hard to restore our lakes and, from what I’ve read, the way they drill into the aquifer would affect lake levels.”
Fracking has been a very limited practice in Florida so far. There are different techniques, such as drilling straight down, then to the side while another technique involves injecting acid into the rocks under pressure to split them open and harvest materials.
In December 2013, Texas-based Dan A. Hughes Co. used the acid-related technique in Collier County near the Everglades. That was the first time the technique had been used in Florida and many of that the county’s residents and leaders were outraged. According to reports, many alleged the governor and Department of Environmental Protection had not done enough to regulate fracking in Florida.
Presently, Texas-based Cholla Petroleum wants to conduct seismic testing in the Florida Panhandle by setting off underground charges as a prelude to possible future fracking. While the proposal is being debated in that region, Brant wants to make sure Clay County residents understand they can be affected by what happens elsewhere.
“Mayor Brown and the council recognize that there are several very real fracking threats to Keystone Heights and the local area. The sensitive nature of Karst terrain, clay and limestone, with significant leakage into the Floridan Aquifer and highly fragile lakes, creates a perfect storm – a clear hazard for pollution, earthquakes, sinkholes and reduced property values, Brant said.
“Fracking also uses immense quantities of water. After dealing with local water problems for the past 30 years and with lakes in recovery status, I am sure the mayor and council – just like local residents – don’t think seismic testing with dynamite, hydraulic fracturing of the earth and injecting toxic chemicals would be a good idea.”