The abrupt end to the 2015 Legislative Session left an important piece of legislation in limbo: the regulation of the onshore oil and gas industry. Fortunately, Sen. Garrett Richter and Rep. Ray Rodrigues are again championing this legislation. We are nearing the finish line with HB 191 having already gained passage and SB 318 is on its way to being considered by the Senate.
While these proposals are similar to legislation that was on the verge of passing in 2015, there have been significant improvements made to the bills after the sponsors carefully listened to constituents and concerned third parties.
The cornerstone of the legislation, empowering the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to better regulate the onshore oil and gas industry by granting DEP additional regulatory oversight over all high-pressure well stimulation techniques, remains. However, by working closely with the Florida Association of Counties and Florida League of Cities, Florida’s counties and municipalities will be allowed to adopt and enforce zoning or land use requirements which may restrict the exploration and production of oil and gas, so long as it doesn’t effectively impose moratorium.
The bill also requires that the legislature review and ratify the proposed rules and regulations that will be set forth by DEP following a $1 million independent, peer-reviewed study. It’s also important to note that, while the study is being completed, there will be a moratorium on all high-pressure well stimulation techniques.
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Without this legislation, the oil and gas industry will continue to operate in a grey area, without a stronger regulatory framework in place that is needed to keep up with technological advances that the industry has made.
We thank the Florida House for passing HB 191 and urge Florida Senators to pass this smart legislation.
Brewster Bevis, senior vice president,Associated
Industries of Florida,