With support from the Florida Petroleum Council and Associated Industries of Florida, HB 695 by Rep. Ford (R-Gulf Breeze) passed the House Energy and Utilities Subcommittee and will now move on to Appropriations. This bill and its Senate companion, SB 1158 by Sen. Evers (R-Crestview), creates a mechanism for public land managers to entertain proposals for oil and gas leases on public uplands. Largely thought to be intended for public lands in NW Florida like Blackwater State Forest (a recent Florida's Special Places nominee), this bill would be applicable statewide, including Southwest Florida where commercial oil and gas extraction is currently active.
The Senate bill has not yet been scheduled for a committee hearing in the Senate, where if it is scheduled, the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee will be a key battleground committee for conservation interests. This issue is still developing; stay tuned for more this week on how best to lend your voice to this issue.