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Florida's Zombie Pro-Fracking Bill Is Finally Dead

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Update: State Senator Garrett Richter, the bill's sponsor, officially pulled SB 318 earlier today, before the measure could be voted on. At least this year, it seems Broward County will remain free of fracking wells. Lap up all the groundwater you want, folks.

A highly controversial bill that Florida's Senate Appropriations Committee shot down last week could return for a vote again today, after Sen. Lisbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, moved to "reconsider" her vote during last week's meeting.

The bill in question – SB 318 – may be the most widely debated bill of this year's state legislative season. If passed, the bill would regulate – but allow – fracking wells to be drilled on state ground, and also bar local municipalities from regulating the practice on their own. (Fracking is the highly controversial process by which water, sand, and an unknown cocktail of chemicals are injected into the ground, in order to extract oil and natural gas.)

The bill should be of particular interest to Broward residents, considering that Broward's County Commission in January banned fracking on county soil.  A private landowner, Kanter Real Estate, LLC, currently owns more than 20,000 acres of undeveloped Everglades land just west of Miramar. Kanter had applied to drill an exploratory well to hunt for oil and natural gas. At a City Commission meeting on January 26, Miramar Mayor Wayne Messman spoke before the County Commission, and vowed to fight any company that wants to frack the land near his town. The County Commission then voted unanimously to pass the ban, even knowing that SB 318 could invalidate it. Broward Mayor Marty Kiar said that, of all the times he'd fought with Tallahassee over local regulations, he was most incensed by this battle.

Though Kanter's application did not mention fracking specifically, Matthew Schwartz, director of the South Florida Wildlands Association, told New Times in January that he thinks there'd be no other reason to drill an "exploratory" well.

"Once you find oil, you frack it," he said. "That's the point of an exploratory well."

Roughly 20 other counties have also passed local fracking bans. 

The State House of Representatives approved its version of the bill in January.

Luckily, on February 25, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 10-9 to kill the senate bill, after a huge number of protesters spoke out against fracking at the meeting. But, immediately afterward, Benacquisto moved to "reconsider" her vote.

The bill will only be voted on again if lawmakers can strike some sort of compromise, and fix the issues some senators had with the bill. Calls to Garrett Richter, the senator sponsoring the legislation, were not returned.

Karen Dwyer, an environmental activist from Collier County, had traveled all the way to Broward to help convince the County Commission to ban fracking. She told New Times via email that she planned to take a road trip up to Tallahassee today to ensure the bill stays dead.

The bill is the final item on today's agenda.

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