The Pinellas County Commission has outlawed fracking within the county limits. The oil and gas drilling technique is also known as hydraulic fracturing and critics, like Environment Florida director Jennifer Rubiello, say it’s dangerous for water supplies and contributes to climate change.
She says St. Petersburg and Clearwater are also working on ordinances to ban fracking. Rubiello says Environment Florida is trying to get Hillsborough County on board as well. In addition it wants the Legislature to enact a statewide ban.
“It was an exciting day for the environmental community and for the public health of Pinellas County residents. The Pinellas Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved and passed an ordinance – so it’s a legally binding ordinance–that bans fracking in Pinellas County.
“Now, Pinellas is the first municipality, in the whole Tampa Bay region, to pass an ordinance to ban fracking and it joins a growing list of over 90 cities and counties that have passed both ordinances and resolutions to make sure that we don’t have fracking, here in Florida.”
Why did they pass it and why do you think it’s important?
“Well, we live in one of the most beautiful counties, beautiful regions, beautiful states, in the whole entire country and I think it’s incumbent upon us–it’s really our job–to do everything that we can, to make sure that it is protected, not just for ourselves but, for future generations.
“Fracking just simply doesn’t fit into that picture. We have seen over the last decade and beyond, that fracking has contaminated drinking water, destroyed landscapes and also increases global-warming pollution. So, it certainly has no place, here in Florida. We should be moving towards clean, renewable energy instead.”
St. Petersburg was considering an ordinance to ban fracking and the transportation of fracking wastewater. Is that also included in the Pinellas County proposal?
“There’s definitely some strong language around waste water in the county ordinance. We feel very good that the county has done everything that they can to address both issues. We’re, again, really thankful that they’ve taken this step to protect our health and our climate from dirty drilling. Because, again, we want to make sure that we’re keeping dirty fossil fuels both offshore and on land, safely in the ground.”
And finally, Pinellas County is not a hotbed for fracking–it’s not anticipated that it’ll actually be fracking in Pinellas county necessarily, but, I think that this is more of a symbolic statement. What’s the purpose of this symbolic statement and how could it be beneficial?
“Two things: one, we all share the same aquifer. So, I think the more counties and cities that are taking a stand against fracking, the better off we’re going to be as a state, in terms of protecting our drinking water, our communities and our health. And ultimately, just locally, fracking is not compatible with the county’s commitment to sustainability. It’s not compatible with the county’s commitment to planning for the impacts of climate change and to the commitment of the county to responsibly build a more resilient region.
“That’s why I’m really thankful for their leadership in moving away from supporting dirty fossil fuels and making a clear statement that we need to move away from that. They are the 11th county, in the state of Florida, that has passed an ordinance banning fracking. Three cities, in addition, have also passed legally binding ordinances banning fracking. They think it sends a really strong signal to the rest of Florida and to our legislators in Tallahassee, that there is a growing number of local elected officials, residents, community members and groups that just don’t want this dirty drilling in our state.”
Where could be next? Is there another county or city, nearby, that might consider this?
“Well, St. Petersburg is currently finished drafting their ordinance and is currently in the process of reviewing it, so we should have some more good news for you Sean, fingers crossed, in the next month. The City of Clearwater, the Environmental Advisory Board has recommended, that the City of Clearwater pass an ordinance banning fracking, as well. And then, we’re looking, also to our neighbors in Hillsborough county, to do the same.”