Commissioners say no to fracking

DEBORAH WHEELER 267-4555 | @WaltonSunDeb dwheeler@waltonsun.com

Fracking is a hot topic these days, including in Walton County.

The Walton County Board of County Commissioners tackled the topic Tuesday during their regular meeting in DeFuniak Springs.

Commissioners were told that all the oil wells in the Panhandle were permitted, but all were dry and the possibility of them being used is low.

"We sit on an aquifer and drink from it," said Commissioner Sara Comander, "and we pump drinking water to South Walton every day. If oil or gas ever got into that aquifer, it would be disastrous. I feel we should take a stand now so if it ever does come up."

Fracking is described as the process of injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks, boreholes, etc. so as to force open existing fissures and extract oil or gas.

Earthjustice says the United States is in the midst of an unprecedented oil and gas drilling rush brought on by the technology of hydraulic fracturing. It says that along with fracking have come reports of poisoned drinking water, polluted air, mysterious animal deaths, industrial disasters, and explosions.

Other states already allow fracking, and in January, the Florida House approved a bill that would allow fracking to take place throughout Florida beginning in 2017.

District 5 Commissioner Cindy Meadows was on the same page as Comander, and suggested sending a delegation to Tallahassee to make the county's concerns heard.

From the audience, Frank Day said he would drive if anyone wants to ride with him as part of the delegation.

Meadows pointed out, however, that the county does have someone who lobbies for them in Tallahassee.

Twenty Florida counties have already banned the practice, but if it passes the Florida legislature, the counties' bans would be null and void.

Even if legislative action deems any county action null and void, the commissioners asked for a statement be drafted of their opposition to fracking, which will be presented at the March 8 meeting and a public hearing will be held during the meeting on March 22.

Walton County resident and founder of Hands Across the Sand, Dave Rauschkolb, said he appreciates the county taking the lead against fracking as it is an issue that is even more important than off-shore drilling.

"Fracking would use water that would be taken out of the mouths of our children," he said. "It would use our water supply and could poison that water supply. It would be a very dangerous situation."