The Council did not stop at just banning surface operations of fracking, though. Under the direction of Vice Mayor Howard Levitan, Village Attorney Burt Saunders was given the go ahead to pursue any options that could be taken to regulate mineral rights beneath Estero, in a move to curb any go-around of the ordinance by way of horizontal drilling.
“Let’s put the language in and deal with the consequences later,” Councilmember Jim Boesch said.
The ban is progressing rapidly due to the Council’s awareness of HB 191 moving closer and closer to the Florida Legislature’s January session. The bill sets up regulations for Oil and gas extraction in Florida, and has controversial language in it that preempts home rule votes by local governments that would make regulations for their own municipalities, rather than ceding such control to the states. While the passage of the bill as is would overturn Estero’s ban, the village want to have it on the books in case amendments are made to honor home rule decisions made prior to its vote.
HB 191 was approved last week in a 9-3 vote by the State House’s Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee. The bill is sponsored by State Representative Ray Rodrigues, who gave a presentation in support of the Bill the Council and the residents of Estero this past November.
The second hearing of the ordinance is set to take place at the Estero Council meeting on December 16th, at 6:30 pm. This will be the day after Estero’s Planning & Zoning board review it.
Also at the December 2nd meeting, the Council passed a resolution to support efforts on the state level to ban fracking in Florida, as well as a request that the Legislature not preempt home rule. These are prompted by the fear of many that chemicals used in the fracking process create a serious potential risk for local water supplies, due to the possibility of leakage of hazardous waste water. Many chemicals used in the process are not made known to the public or local officials under the guise of trade secrets.
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida has warned many people in the area that water used in the fracking can never be reintroduced into the drinking water supply.
By Trent Townsend