Florida House will not vote on fracking investment bill

TALLAHASSE, Fla. (AP) — The push by Florida’s largest power company to charge customers for out-of-state fracking investments is dead, putting an end to a pair of big-money fracking fights this session in the Florida Legislature.

Republican Sen. Aaron Bean’s sponsored legislation would have allowed companies to recover costs for oil and natural gas exploration projects out of state, including hydraulic fracturing. But House Speaker Richard Corcoran said he had “too many reservations” about the proposal and its potential environmental and economic consequences. Fracking entails injecting a high-pressure mix of water and chemicals underground to extract oil and gas from rock.

“The notion that Florida ratepayers would pay for out-of-state energy production was not in the best interests of the people of Florida,” Corcoran said in a statement.

The Senate was poised to approve the bill toward the end of the session.

A 2016 Supreme Court ruling has said companies would overstep their authority when charging customers for investments. But Bean maintained his proposal would have saved customers money in the long run.

Florida Power & Light, the only company that currently would have qualified under the bill to recover costs from ratepayers, spent $14 million in campaign contributions in the 2016 election cycle. Senate President Joe Negron’s political committee received at least $50,000 in the last election cycle from FP&L, the state’s largest power company.

Consumer and environmental groups opposed the measure, saying it would increase the state’s reliance on natural gas at a time when Floridians are looking to expand investments in renewable energy.

“This is a good step in the right direction for the grassroots, anti-fracking movement in Florida,” Jorge Aguilar, a representative with the environmental group Food & Water Watch, said. “We’re glad to see House Speaker Corcoran finally honoring his pledge to hold special interests accountable, but the fight against fracking is not over yet.”

Another measure this year that sought to prohibit in-state fracking for oil and natural gas seemed promising with bipartisan support in both chambers and an unprecedented number of Republicans backing the ban. But House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues blocked that measure, citing a need for a scientific study into the specific effects that such drilling would have in Florida. Environmentalists pushed back, arguing studies have already been done showing fracking is associated with earthquakes and water contamination.

Rodrigues’ political committee receiving at least $5,000 in recent months from a South Florida company that allowed unpermitted fracking to go on its property in 2014. He said the contributions did not influence his decision to block the fracking ban in any way.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.