Wow Florida! Senate reversed years of opposition to statewide ban on oil & gas fracking, Advancing bill to prohibit fracking in Florida

This post is dedicated to Australia’s Anne Daw.

Fracking ban in Florida gets early Senate support by Mary Ellen Klas, March 7, 2017, Miami Herald

The Florida Senate reversed years of opposition to a statewide ban on oil and gas fracking and advanced a bill Tuesday that will prohibit the controversial practice in Florida.

Just hours after opening the annual legislative session, the Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation voted unanimously to prohibit “advanced well stimulation treatment,” specifically hydraulic fracturing, acid fracturing and matrix acidizing. …

The bill, SB 442, is sponsored by Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa, who reversed her opposition to a fracking ban last year, promising voters in her newly drawn Senate district that she would make approval of the ban a top priority. [Compare to Alberta’s promise breaking, cowardly NDP….]

“This has been a wonderful journey,” Young said, acknowledging the shift in position since she voted for a House bill last year that would have regulated and authorized fracking beginning in 2017, after a state study.

She held up a chunk of Florida karst limestone: “It is fragile. It is porous,” she said.

“Florida is unique. Florida is special, and we do not have to be like every other state in the nation.”

Opposing the bill were ExxonMobil, the Florida Chamber, the James Madison Institute, the Heartland Institute of Washington, D.C. [Ha!  Too Funny!], the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Petroleum Council, which argued that Florida’s ban would be the strictest in the nation, that hydraulic fracturing has been proven safe in other states and that it must remain an option if Florida is to meet its energy needs.

Dave Mica, president of the Florida Petroleum Council, said the state consumes 27 million gallons of gasoline every day, the third largest amount in the country, and most of the natural gas used in the state comes from the process of hydraulic fracking. “We have a shared interest in our industry to protect energy resources,” he said.

Jake Kramer, an attorney at Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson, which represents Collier Resources, the company that has shown an interest in drilling for natural gas in Florida, warned that the measure “will be a lightning rod for litigation in this state.”

Kramer said that the measure will open the door to lawsuits that claim the measure qualifies as an economic taking, meaning landowners could seek compensation. Large landowners could claim that the law will deprive them of access to subsurface materials.

But Young disagreed. She said the bill does not foreclose mineral rights and does not prohibit traditional oil and gas exploration. [Brava!]

“There may be some uncertainty but the question is are you willing to roll the dice with the future of our state?” she said. “Are you willing to roll the dice with the future of our environment?” However, she acknowledged that with a room full of “business lobbyists” opposing her bill, her attempt to ban fracking in Florida “won’t be easy.”

Meanwhile, as one committee attempted to ban fracking, two lawmakers filed legislation this week that would change state law and allow Florida Power & Light to charge customers, and profit from, speculative natural gas fracking.

The bill, HB 1043 by Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, is titled “Prudent Utility Investments in Natural Gas Reserves,” and the Senate companion is SB 1238 by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach.

The measures would overturn a Florida Supreme Court ruling last year that said that Florida regulators exceeded their authority when they allowed FPL to charge its customers, not its shareholders, for its speculative investment in fracking operations.

In June 2015, the Florida Public Service Commission unanimously went against its staff recommendations and approved FPL’s request to charge customers up to $750 million annually for the speculative natural gas fracking activities. FPL, a regulated monopoly and Florida’s largest utility, then entered into a $191 million joint venture with PetroQuest Energy of Louisiana to explore for natural gas in Oklahoma.

The proposal, called the Woodford Gas Reserves Project, allowed FPL to earn profits of more than 11 percent from the investment. Although FPL claimed the investment would provide a long-term hedge against volatile fuel costs and save customers money, FPL revealed that the Woodford project had cost customers about $5.8 million and did not save fuel costs.

The Office of Public Counsel, which represents ratepayers in utility cases, filed a lawsuit arguing that the PSC exceeded its authority in allowing the company to charge customers for the speculative investment. The Florida Supreme Court agreed and, in a 6-1 ruling ordered FPL to refund nearly $24.5 million to customers.

“Treating these activities as a hedge requires FPL’s end-user consumers to guarantee the capital investment and operations of a speculative oil and gas venture without the Florida Legislature’s authority,” wrote Justice Ricky Polston. Justice Charles Canady dissented, saying regulators did have the authority to use the fuel clause to allow the company to make risk-based investments.

After losing in court last year, Florida Power & Light is now turning to the Florida Legislature to revamp the law.

“Natural gas is a proven commodity that brings rates down and so we are going to allow FPL to go forward with a proven technology to have these reserves so that we pay down the road,” Bean said in an interview. He said his bill is intended to help FPL “do what’s best for their ratepayers in Florida.”

“I am looking to save the taxpayers and ratepayers money and there is proven technology that can lower consumers’ energy bills,” he said. “Do we have things to iron out? We do. And will not everybody agree? maybe.” [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to:

2016 11 05: Dr. Anthony Ingraffea: Fracking and Florida don’t mix, “As usual, a few folks will get rich, everybody else will get negatively impacted, and the state will get left holding the environmental bag, and, finally, we will have killed the Everglades”

2016 10 10: Sink Hole Florida: Miami-Dade County Votes Unanimously to Ban Fracking, Citing Multiple Environmental Concerns; More than 80 Florida cities and counties have banned or expressed opposition to fracking

2016 09 17: And they want to frac Florida? Massive sinkhole causes vast waterfall of wastewater into Floridan drinking water aquifer

2016 08 26: Two new peer-reviewed studies published after Florida significantly increases toxic chemicals allowed dumped in waterways: 1) Chemicals used in fracking, other gas, oil operations increase risk of miscarriages, reduced male fertility, prostate cancer, birth defects, preterm birth by disrupting hormones; 2) Lit review shows increased risk of negative reproductive effects from exposure to fracking, other oil, gas extraction activities, especially for miscarriages, reduced semen quality, prostate cancer, birth defects, preterm birth

2016 06 09: Pinellas County Florida unanimously votes to ban fracking; Cites harm to environment, air pollution, damage to Floridan Aquifer, health problems as main reasons

2016 05 22: Florida Supreme Court blasts Florida Power & Light’s fracking charge, State regulators exceeded their authority allowing the utility, a company, to charge customers for investment in fracing, transferring risk from shareholders to customers

2015 05 15: “Your job is to protect Floridians, not to poison us.” Deregulation: All the better to frac ‘n poison you with. Florida DEP trying to ease restrictions on discharged chemicals into rivers, lakes, coastal waters

2016 01 27: The insanity of soon to be “more porous than Swiss cheese” Florida: “It’s a shameful day.” Will fracing swallow the state in endless sink holes and quakes?

2015 07 17: Florida City Council of Bonita Springs votes, unanimously bans fracking: “Preserving our water supply is the No. 1 priority…. Water really fuels our economy—not oil.”

2014 07 20: Florida jury slams tobacco company with $23.6B in punitive damages in widow’s lawsuit; We can say no to smoking near loved ones, can’t say no to being poisoned by fracing or dishonest frac promotion by regulators, companies, CAPP, CSUR and frac patent holder, Dr. Maurice Dusseault,academic experts like Dr. John Cherry and Dr. David Wheeler

2014 07 02: Florida: Collier County Goes To Court Over ‘Acid Fracking’ Near Everglades, charges that state regulators lax in oversight, jeopardizing public health and environment

2014 05 02: Florida Department Environmental Protection fines Dan A. Hughes Company $25,000 for fracing without permission; Company says it didn’t frac, it stimulated (where have we heard that before?)

2012 10 14: Florida Fracking threat to environment ]

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