Dudley’s words fell upon dead ears, though, as this past week saw the Florida House of Representatives pass the Oil and Gas Bill, known as HB 191, sponsored by State Representative Ray Rodrigues, with the language that would preempt municipal bans on hydraulic fracturing intact. There were attempts to curb such language with several amendments proposed that ranged from allowing locals to vote on allowing fracking projects proposed for their community, to keeping bans already on the books to remain. Each was struck down in the process.
“I recognize that this bill is in the center of the storm of controversy,” Rodrigues said. “The controversies have always been the same. Are we going to react with fear ... or with courage?”
While proponents of the bill stuck to their claims that it would introduce regulations for fracking where none before existed in the state, several environmental groups from communities all over Florida continued to object due to risks the process poses to drinking water.
However, their concerns were trumped by an intense push to get the bill through. A similar bill had died last April when the session of the Florida Legislature collapsed and closed out early. In order to ensure that didn’t happen again, the oil and gas industry spent big. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the industry put in over $440 thousand to top Republican Lawmakers since December of 2014. Barron Collier Companies was among the top contributors, putting forth over $175 thousand.
"Wishing for a zero risk process or some absolute safety is not possible," Republican Representative Cary Pigman said. Pigman is a medical doctor from Avon Park. "Oil and natural gas production is an untidy process. So is all of mining. So is farming. So is industry. Yet our society needs energy, we need food and we need the finished products made from natural resources."
The House bill passed with a vote of 73045, with some Republicans voting to oppose the bill alongside the Democrats.
Next is a vote for the Senate version of the bill, put forward by State Senator Garrett Richter, who represents Lee and Collier Counties.
“Today, there’s nothing in Florida that prohibits fracking,” Richter said. “With this bill there will be.”