Saturday, February 23, 2013

ALERT: Oil drilling in Blackwater River State Forest on agenda this Monday!



Town Hall Meeting in Jay, Florida
Monday, February 25, 2013 at 5:30 p.m.
at the Jay Community Center
5259 Booker Lane, Jay, FL

Representative Doug Broxson withdrew his bill HB 431 Development of Oil and Gas Resources on Wednesday which would have allowed oil exploration and development in the Blackwater River State Forest in northwest Florida near Pensacola.  

That’s something to cheer about, but his town hall meeting set for this Monday to discuss drilling in Blackwater makes us wonder whether Rep. Broxson and the Scott Administration are looking for a way to introduce the proposal again.

According to news reports,  Rep. Broxson announced half-heartedly the withdrawal of his bill, saying “I believe that we should have further discussion about how the leases in Blackwater are determined and managed, but in light of the misinformation about this bill, it is probably best to take the legislation off the table until we can have a more public conversation to address the facts.”

That doesn’t sound like he’s yielded to the court of public opinion.

In fact, Rep. Broxson plans to go forward with a town hall meeting to discuss drilling at Blackwater at 5:30 pm this Monday, February 25th at the Jay Community Center at 5259 Booker Lane in Jay, Florida.  Representatives from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the Florida Forest Service will be present at Broxson’s request to “provide information and answer questions regarding the issue of oil drilling on state lands.” 


1) Please call Representative Broxson on Monday to thank him for withdrawing his bill and urge him to join you as an opponent of oil drilling at Blackwater River State Forest:

     Representative Doug Broxson:
     Capitol Office - Tallahassee   Phone: (850) 717-5003
     District Offices - Milton(850) 626-3113;  Gulf Breeze(850) 916-5436

2) Carpool over to the meeting in Jay on Monday and let Representative Broxson and members of the Scott Administration know how you feel about the proposal to drill for oil and gas at Blackwater River State Forest.   

Local activists in northwest Florida did a great job educating the public about the threat of drilling in Blackwater River State Forest and building opposition to it.  See their Facebook page here:   Now they need help from Sierra Club and our members to stop this proposal from resurfacing in Tallahassee.

HB 431 – R.I.P.
Here are the facts about HB 431 – withdrawn on 2-19-13 by its sponsor Representative Doug Braxson: 
  1. The bill would have exposed the Blackwater River State Forest to at least 3 years of seismic testing (explosions), exploratory and production drilling, drilling platforms and pollution, increased traffic and disturbance of wildlife, and if oil is found – more CO2 pollution.  And that’s if all goes according to plan.  If there’s a spill, it will be even worse!   (This bill is not good for black bears.)
  2. HB 431 would have set a terrible precedent for the proper use of our State Parks system.  And it even goes so far as to ensure oil drillers get a better deal than the state. 
  3. The bill did an end-run around three sections of law that provide protections for the state in its dealings with lands and their exploitation.  The following describes some of the gifts to the oil and gas industry made possible by the end-run: 
  • The Board of Trustees (the Governor and Cabinet) would no longer have the  discretion to designate blocks, tracts, or parcels – the process would be driven by industry.
  • There would be no requirement for competitive bidding (Currently sealed bids are required to give the state the best chance at a decent price for its lands.)
  • There would be no requirement for an advertised public hearing before any block, tract, or parcel is leased for development within a radius of 3 miles of any incorporated city or town, or within a 3 mile radius of any bathing beach or beaches outside of an incorporated city or town
  • There would be no requirement that the Board of Trustees consider comments made at a public hearing
  • The Board of Trustees would have no authority to reject bids or to withdraw the land from market or to refuse to execute a lease or leases if it considers it/them contrary to the public welfare.
  • The Board of Trustees would lose its discretion to set a royalty (never less than one eighth) in kind or in value, and would also lose its current guarantee of a definite and, after the first two years, increasing rent on lands not developed for, or not yet worked to produce, oil or gas.

Sierra Club Florida believes the Legislature should be looking for new sources of energy that are renewable, don’t contribute to climate disruption and rising sea levels, and that don’t threaten our state forests with pollution.  It’s the best way to reduce dependence on foreign oil and create jobs!

Together we can protect this Florida treasure!