Focus on Florida:
Tallahassee treading lightly on controversial topic
By William Patrick of Watchdog.org
That was the emotional appeal made by several state lawmakers at the Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday, where a bipartisan coalition of elected officials gathered to announce newly filed legislation that, if successful, would abolish the oil and natural gas extraction technique throughout the state.
Flanked by legislators from both chambers, Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa, the bill’s sponsor, began her remarks by explaining the legislation is “concise and straightforward,” and “bans fracking of all types in Florida.”
“I have filed this bill for my children and for all the current and future generations of Floridians who I believe deserve to have this same opportunity,” Young added while touting the state’s environment.
Currently, there is no fracking in Florida due to a two-year moratorium enacted by a previous legislature. Concerns about the state’s porous limestone geology led to the temporary ban.
Fracking involves injecting liquid compounds at high pressure into underground rock, which environmentalists say is extremely hazardous. The innovative technology has revolutionized the country’s energy industry over the past decade, bringing jobs and economic growth to participating states.
Curiously, Young voted in favor of a pro-fracking bill last year although it ultimately died in an appropriations committee.
But the Tampa legislator explained that Wednesday was a “new day.”
“I’d like for all of you to stop focusing on the past,” she said.
Part of Young’s recent past includes being elected to the state Senate. Young previously served in the Florida House for three terms and was the House majority leader last year. There, her leadership role included steering legislative strategies and assembling votes.
That was then and this is now, said Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, a senior statesman also hailing from the Tampa Bay area.
“We know the education that occurs when you move from the House to the Senate,” Latvala said.
The jab was aimed at the more conservative House.
“I was part of the group that took that bill down last year,” Latvala boasted.
House leadership was noticeably absent from the handful of lawmakers comprising the new anti-fracking coalition. The highest ranking House member was Democratic Minority Leader Janet Cruz, also from Tampa.
Cruz singled out her two interns during her remarks and said she owed them, their children and her grandchildren safe drinking water.
Rep. Keith Perry, R-Orlando, evoked the Founding Fathers and said the anti-fracking bill continues their commitment to “posterity.”
Sen. Gary Farmer, a South Florida Democrat, added, “The time has finally come to end this dangerous practice.”
When asked if she supports fracking in other states, Young deflected and said she respected the “sovereignty” of each state to make its own decision.
Intrastate regional sovereignty, however, is off-the-table.
The Florida panhandle is more conducive to fracking than the limestone-based peninsula, and oil drilling is already a major economic industry in the northwest part of the state. Improving it through fracking technology would be impossible if the bill passes.
The event concluded with a shot at conservative House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, who’s made headlines taking on what he’s called “Gucci-wearing lobbyists.”
“Perhaps the Gucci-wearing lobbyists can convince Speaker Corcoran to oppose this legislation, but I doubt it,” one lawmaker said.
Moments later, Latvala could be heard teasing about how Gucci-wearing “trial lawyers” might convince Corcoran to support the bill — to raucous approval from his colleagues.
The state legislative session starts March 7.
Without buy-in from the House, Corcoran could have the last laugh.