Fracking bill dies in Florida Legislature

Hands Across the Sand opposition to drilling and fracking
Florida residents hold Hands Across the Sand on Treasure Island Beach to oppose oil and gas drilling. By Seán Kinane / WMNF News (May 2013).

A bill to study and regulate fracking appears to be dead in the Florida Legislature; dozens of environmentalists spoke out against it last week before it failed a vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

On Tuesday the bill’s Senate sponsor, Naples Republican Garrett Richter, dropped the bill for lack of support. But first he chided opponents:

“Without this bill, without Senate Bill 318, $30 a barrel is what we can count to regulate fracking in Florida.

“I had hoped to give our regulators more statutory tools to do their job. I, along with Collier county and others, wanted to see a stronger and a more effective framework of laws.

“As I said, at the onset of my remarks here today, this is a controversial subject. The controversy will continue and I dare say, will draw even more concern when oil supplies drop and prices go up to $50 a barrel. Which they will, because I can pretty much assure you demand is not going to go away. Having said that, Senate Bill 318 is going away and I move to not reconsider this bill.”

Another supporter, Republican David Simmons from Seminole County, criticized opponents of the bill who said they preferred a total ban on fracking rather than regulations.

“What I see here today, and what I’ve seen in the last few days, is a group of people who become entrenched in a position and then believe that they can’t be confused by the facts. Or they can’t be – don’t confuse them by giving them the facts.”

A similar fracking bill had passed the House in January.

Also in the Senate Appropriations Committee Tuesday, attempts to re-write Florida’s gambling laws hit a roadblock. Committee chair Tom Lee said the gambling bills would not be considered Tuesday and might not come up again this session.

“First of all, we will not be taking up either bill relating to gaming today. Neither of those issues will come before the committee today. They will be temporarily postponed and we’ll see whether they show back up on the agenda on Thursday, or not.”

The Seminole Tribe and Governor Rick Scott negotiated a 20-year gambling compact that would guarantee Florida $3 billion over 7 years. In exchange the Seminole Tribe would get exclusive rights to certain gambling games. But it needs to be ratified by the Legislature and Tuesday’s inaction by the Senate may doom the agreement.


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