Fracking bill denied in Florida Senate

Senate bill 318, a bill regulating the practice of fracking in a Florida Senate committee meeting, was dropped Tuesday when sponsor of the bill Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, pulled it from consideration.

The Appropriations committee had previously voted down the bill Thursday but a procedural move allowed for a hearing to reconsider it.

Richter ensured that it will come back up, and expressed that the issue is polemic.

“I can pretty much assure that demand will not go away. Having said that, Senate bill 318 is going away and I move that you not reconsider this bill,” Richter said. “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, which they will.”  

The measure would have provided $1 million to study the impact of fracking on Florida’s aquifer and unique limestone bedrock which geologists have described as a sponge-like rock, and preempt local government ordinances banning the practice.

The bill also would have directed the Department of Environmental Protection to set up a regulatory scheme for inshore oil and gas drilling.

Across the state, fracking has been shunned in 32 counties and 48 Florida cities have passed either a resolution opposing fracking or an ordinance banning it.

Fracking is a process where a highly-pressurized solution of chemicals and water are used to fracture and dissolve rock to collect natural gas locked more than a mile below the ground.

Tallahassee resident Andre Woodson doesn't trust the bill because of its potential long-term implications with the piping and rust.

“Pipes go bad, they always do; look what happened to the pipes in Flint,” Woodward said.

Director of natural resource policy Jennifer Hecker said Richter misconstrued her conversations with lawmakers and that the Conservancy of Southwest Florida always worked in good faith with legislators.

“That was not factually accurate. We have all the documents to substantiate that,” Hecker  said. “We met with him from the get-go, and he stopped communicating with us last year when it became clear he was carrying a bill that only the oil industry was supporting and was not what the community had wanted and asked him to support.”

Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, attempted to compromise by offering amendments addressing environmentalists’ concerns, but he also added he is not giving up on the issue. Hecker added that the Conservancy will be back next year to seek a total suspension on fracking in Florida until there is scientific evidence it does not pose a health threat.