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Florida commissioners unanimously agree on fracking ban

TAVARES — Lake County commissioners today unanimously voted to oppose bills moving quickly through the Legislature that would strip counties of the right to regulate or ban fracking.

Commissioner Welton Cadwell proposed the measure, which also is supported by the Florida Association of Counties. Lake became the 33rd of Florida’s 67 counties to object to the state’s attempted takeover of fracking, which is supported by state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora.

Commissioners stopped short, however, of backing a state law banning fracking, which involves drilling into the earth and blasting rock with a high-pressure stream of water and chemicals to release natural gas or oil.

Environmentalists who spoke against fracking said it was too big a risk because the state’s underground waterways are interconnected and easily could be polluted and because the proposed legislation in Senate Bill 318 and House Bill 191 would let the drilling companies keep secret the chemicals being used and then injected deep into the ground for disposal.

Related: Bill to open the door to fracking in Florida moves forward.

“It’s ultimately about the quality of life here in Lake County,” said Daniel Osborn, a Fruitland Park resident and member of the Lake Soil & Water Conservation District. “While there may be short-term economic benefits, in the long-term this is not something that will improve the quality of life for citizens of Lake County.”

Jim Tatum, an environmental supporter from Fort White in Columbia County, traveled to Lake to warn commissioners about the chemical-laced wastewater that is a result of the process.

“It’s so toxic it can’t be reclaimed, and it has to be injected into earth,” he said. “The drilling companies can’t find anybody stupid enough around them to let them dispose of it.”

Commissioner Sean Parks, whose background is in environmental consulting, said allowing the companies to keep secret which chemicals they use is particularly galling.

“Knowing a little about the noise and what happens around the sites, it would be detrimental to what we’re trying to do around Lake County,” Parks said.

Commissioner Leslie Campione, a longtime property-rights advocate, said she is against fracking in Lake and doesn’t believe the Legislature should take away a county’s right to regulate it. However, she wavered on supporting Cadwell’s resolution because its language was too tough on fracking throughout the state.

Cadwell replaced some of the language accusing drilling companies that use fracking of “permanently polluting” millions of gallons of water and using cancer-causing chemicals with less strident claims, and that gesture won Campione’s vote.

This article was from The Orlando Sentinel and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.