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Estero goes frack free

Estero is a “frack free zone.”

The village council on Wednesday approved an ordinance that prohibits hydraulic and acid fracturing, known as fracking, which use chemicals to dissolve rock below the ground. Councilor Don Brown was absent due to medical reasons.

By doing so, Estero has joined the city of Bonita Springs in banning an oil drilling and exploration method that faces strong community opposition because of concerns about its possible impact on local water supplies and public health.

“It’s not about gas and oil, it’s about water,” said Councilor Jim Boesch.

And the ordinance adds Estero to a list of local governments daring the state Legislature to challenge their home rule powers.

“Sometimes you have to stand up and be counted and do the right thing,” said Vice Mayor Howard Levitan.

Florida’s lawmakers are considering companion bills that would regulate oil and gas operations in the state — SB 318 sponsored by Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, and HB 191 sponsored by Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero.

The bills would pre-empt local fracking ordinances not in existence before Jan. 1, 2015, leaving enforcement of rules related to the contentious oil drilling technique up to the state.

Mayor Nick Batos supported Estero’s fracking ban but said he remains skeptical it will prevail because of the pre-emption language in the state bills.

“I just want to be practical about what I’m doing,” Batos said.

All who spoke during public comment supported Estero’s ban.

“We in Estero value our water far too much to lose any of it,” said Peter Cangialosi, a village resident and the environmental director for the nonprofit Estero Council of Community Leaders.

Wearing her anti-fracking T-shirt, Lee County resident Ruth McGregor said state legislators are “trying to pull a fast one on us.”

“There is never any place that is good for fracking,” she said.

Levitan said the council was provided about 1,000 pages of information to review.

“I believe the only potential action that we take tonight is to ban fracking,” Levitan said.

Councilor Katy Errington, who championed the fracking ban, said the council served its purpose by voting to protect Estero’s water supply.

“I would like to be able to sleep tonight,” Errington said.

Related: Estero moves forward with fracking ban.

This article was written by Maryann Batlle from Naples Daily News, Fla. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.