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Pinellas County Commission bans fracking

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

County commissioners voted Tuesday unanimously to ban fracking in Pinellas.

“After listening carefully to the latest science and the voices of local residents, Pinellas County Commissioners decided to permanently protect the water, health, and environment of our county from the documented damage of fracking and fracking wastewater,” said Jennifer Rubiello, state director of Environment Florida.

“This is what true leadership looks like,” she said.

Commissioner Dave Eggers conceded that fracking is unlikely in Pinellas. But, he said, the ban is necessary to make a statement and to try to protect the county’s water.

Fracking, otherwise known as hydraulic fracturing, is a process to extract natural gas or oil from underground rock. The process, opponents say, uses toxic chemicals that can pollute groundwater and pollute the air and soil. The process also uses water that, environmentalists say, is needed for drinking and other uses. And many of the chemicals used, such as benzene, are known carcinogens.

“Fracking has been an environmental disaster,” Rubiello said.

In passing the ordinance, Pinellas became the 11th county in Florida to ban fracking. The city of St. Petersburg is also considering a ban on fracking and on the storage of fracking wastewater within the city limits.

At one time, it appeared to be unlikely that fracking would be an issue in Florida. But a bill permitting fracking was proposed in the most recent Legislative session. More than 80 counties and cities passed resolutions opposing it and were able to kill the bill. But many fear the issue could come up again in the next session of the Legislature.

The Pinellas ordinance will become effective 10 days after it is received by the Florida secretary of state, county attorney Jim Bennet said. He said that means it will likely become effective sometime next week.

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