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Florida House votes 73-45 to approve fracking bill

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The state House voted 73-45 to approve a measure (HB 191) aimed at hydraulic fracturing.

The decision came after more than an hour of debate, and now heads to the Senate. A companion measure (SB 318) has one more committee stop before it heads to the floor for a vote.

“This process has taken four years. This topic has had 17 committee hearings here in the House, and three votes on the floor, after this vote today,” said Rep. Ray Rodrigues, an Estero Republican. “I recognize this bill is in the center of a storm of controversy.”

Rodrigues urged lawmakers to vote for the bill, pointing to other times the Florida House handled controversial topics — like electricity, automobiles and space exploration — as examples of why the Legislature should support the measure.

The bill passed along party lines. Democrats used their time during the debate to urge lawmakers to vote against the bill.

“We need to take a step back and take another look at what we’re doing,” said Rep. Joseph Geller. “This is the health and safety of our citizens that we’re trying to protect.”

The bill requires the Department of Environmental Protection to conduct a study of the impact fracking and other high-pressure well stimulation techniques will have on Florida. It also increases fines to $25,000 a day per violation and requires drillers to get a permit before they can begin fracking.

The measure prohibits local governments from banning fracking, but does have a provision that allows cities and counties to adopt and enforce land use regulations as long as they don’t “impose a moratorium on, effectively prohibit, or inordinately burden” the activities.

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