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Nancy Smith

Fracking Legislation Halfway Home, Winning the House

April 26, 2015 - 6:00pm

The energy industry likes House Bill 1205, likes the protections it offers Florida. The controversial legislation that would lay the foundation for a transparent process for hydraulic fracturing in the state passed Monday, 82-34.

Sponsors of the bill, Reps. Ray Rodrigues, R-Fort Myers, and Cary Pigman, R-Avon Park, say the bill creates a regulatory framework for "fracking," the technique of drilling for oil and natural gas that has become widespread in other parts of the country.

Concerned citizens have appeared in protest of the bill at nearly every step, claiming fracking causes environmental harm to the state's drinking-water supply by injecting dangerous chemicals into the ground. They argue it poses too many risks to human and animal health. But supporters have countered that fracking is already allowed in Florida, including requirements for permits, monitoring and inspection and fines for any violations. The regulatory framework, they say, "puts the icing on the cake."

As soon as the legislation passed, Kevin Doyle, executive director of Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), applauded House members, saying, "As we continue to shift our energy reliance toward natural gas, Floridas business community and consumers can be negatively impacted if we do not have the right policies in place to protect the benefits that our current energy situation is providing to our country."

It was CEA-Florida that hosted an Energy 101 Briefing in Tallahassee earlier in the legislative process. It featured an overview on natural gas and hydraulic fracturing and its impact on Florida. Among the presenters at the briefing were Denise Cox, vice president of Storm Energy Ltd. and a geoscientist with experience in hydraulic fracturing operations for the oil and gas industry. Cox explained how studies have shown groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing is "not physically plausible."

Said Doyle, Supporting the safe, responsible development (of natural gas) will create a welcoming environment for the Florida economy and consumers. After all, energy is a key ingredient in everything we do as a state, and we need to promote policies that support expanded responsible development of American resources and in particular those here in Florida.

"Todays votes are a good step in that direction and we look forward to monitoring this legislation as it advances through this years legislative process.

Besides the oil and gas industry, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida also support the legislation.SB 1468 is the companion bill in the upper chamber, sponsored by Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples. It is yet to come to a vote of the full Senate.


Reach Nancy Smith at smith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith

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