Florida City Bans Fracking by Victoria Bekiempis, July 15, 2015, newsweek
The city council of Bonita Springs, Florida, voted unanimously Wednesday to prohibit the controversial petroleum extraction technique, according to attendees.
Bonita Springs is the second Florida city to enact a fracking ban, local reporter Patrick Riley said. The ordinance doesn’t ban “conventional oil drilling and routine well cleaning,” he writes.
Although Florida is generally not known for its oil and gas industry, there has been small-scale petroleum production since 1943. In the past several years, prospectors have viewed Florida’s untapped crude as a potential game-changer for the industry.
Unlike many oil producing epicenters that were long ago decimated by pollution, oil exploration in South Florida poses particular risks because much of the undeveloped area is still relatively pristine and environmentally sensitive. South Florida is both the endangered Florida panther’s habitat and the watershed that feeds Big Cypress National Preserve and the Everglades. The watershed also fills aquifers from where millions of South Floridians get drinking water, Newsweek reported.
Karen Dwyer, president and founder of local activist group Stonecrab Alliance, which has been part of the coalition leading anti-fracking efforts in Florida, tells Newsweek advocates hope other localities follow suit, describing the ban as “well timed and the right thing to do.”
South Florida’s environment and urban centers constantly contend with water shortages, Dwyer explains. Meanwhile, the economy is largely based on two water-dependent industries: tourism and agriculture.
“Preserving our water supply is the No. 1 priority in Florida,” she says. “Water really fuels our economy—not oil.”
Collier Resources Company, an outfit that controls much of South Florida’s land and mineral resources, has vehemently opposed the ban. Collier leases mineral rights on its lands to oil companies. Collier’s attorney Ronald Weaver says the company is “deeply disappointed by the city of Bonita Springs’s decision.”
“Our client believes, for a number of reasons, the city should have allowed state and federal regulators to determine the appropriate course of action,” he tells Newsweek.
The company also said in a statement:
Prior to this decision, CRC made assurances to the City Council that had we been granted a continuance at today’s meeting, CRC would have made certain that any future lessees would have been limited to oil production using only conventional approaches that have been well accepted and understood in Florida since 1943 until such a time that clear regulations regarding high-pressure well stimulation techniques were established either by legislation or the Department of Environmental Protection. [Isn’t it refreshing to see a city council not fall for industry’s constant lies?] Weaver says Collier “is exploring its legal and other recourse,” but wouldn’t say whether the company would sue, adding: “We do not comment on litigation.” [Emphasis added]
Bonita Springs bans fracking within city limits by Bill Smith, July 15, 2015, News-press.com
“I’m delighted,” said Karen Dwyer, a long-time environmental activist. “I don’t think that this was easy, but we showed that Environmental Justice was willing to step jump in and help the town.”
An attorney with Environmental Justice, an environmental legal defense fund, told the council the group was willing to intervene in any lawsuit bought by potential drillers, such as Collier Resources Co. against the city, in order to defend the ordinance in court. Collier has extensive mineral rights in communities throughout Southwest Florida.
… Councilwoman Janet Martin told her colleagues that they had a duty to act to approve the anti-fracking ordinance. ‘“I strongly believe that it is our duty to protect our citizens and our wildlife,” she said.
In giving unanimous approval to the ordinance, council spurned an offer from attorney Ronald Emerson, representing the Collier Co., which controls mineral rights in much of Southwest Florida. Emerson suggested a 60-90 day delay for negotiations between the company and environmentalists and the city over acceptable fracking regulations.
But after supporters of the ban argued that a delay would allow Collier time to file a drilling application and stake out a potential damage claim against the city, Emerson offered to delay any drilling application during the negotiations. The offer drew no support from council members.
Advocates of a limit on fracking warned that failure to adopt local regulations would result in self-regulation by petroleum interests.
“Nobody oversees the construction of the wells other than the driller,” said Noah Kusler, a hydrologist who operates a water resources consulting firm in the area.
Bonita Springs anti-fracking law up for final vote
The director of the Florida Petroleum Association, David Pike, urged the council to reject the ban, citing the region’s reliance on oil. “We are the third largest user of petroleum products in the nation,” Pike said, in backing the Collier Resources bid for a delay. “The proposal is overly broad, too restrictive and is a total ban.”
Council approval came quickly and with little discussion, following public comment.
“We were disappointed,” Emerson said following the vote. “The Collier family has been in the business for 77 years, safely and responsibly.”
In an emailed statement, Collier Resources Co. spokeswoman Lyndsey Cruley said the company has tried to cooperate with the city on regulating fracking as an alternative to a ban.
“CRC offered,” to meet with city council members, as well as staff, leading up to today’s council meeting,” Cruley said. “To discuss how best to regulate well stimulation and the industry in the region to ensure the public safety and health is upheld.”
Emerson said it is premature for the Colliers to decide whether to file suit to overturn the ordinance, even before a drilling permit is issued with the anti-fracking restrictions.
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