Fracking bill stalled in Florida Senate committee

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anti-fracking sign
Sign at anti-fracking press conference. By Seán Kinane / WMNF News (Feb. 2016)

A bill to study and regulate fracking in Florida is stalled and may be dead; the Senate Appropriations Committee voted down (10-9) the fracking bill Thursday after overwhelming public opposition. But the committee also moved to reconsider it later.

One key Republican who voted against the fracking bill is Pinellas County’s Jack Latvala. He accused the Department of Environmental Protection of not being straightforward about whether all the chemicals that would be used in fracking would be disclosed or whether they could be hidden from the public.

Supporters of what’s called SB 318, like DEP Secretary Jonathan Stevenson, point to the fact that since fracking is not specifically regulated in Florida it can occur without much oversight.

But Tampa Democratic Senator Arthenia Joyner suggested that enough is known about the harmful effects of fracking elsewhere that it’s a good bet the drilling technique would affect the environment and human health if Florida’s limestone geology is fracked.

During public comment only two people took to the podium to support the fracking bill: a representative of Collier County and the director of the Florida Petroleum Council. Before comment was cut off because of time constraints more than a dozen people spoke out against it. Then Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto read the positions of the rest of the public who had signed up to speak. One of them was for the bill, more than 30 were against it.

After the meeting ended, chair Tom Lee said his Appropriations committee will only hear the bill again if there is a compromise worked out.

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