Dirty energy money has flooded the Florida legislature. Over the past five years, energy industry PACs and employees have given $12 million to Florida state legislators and major political parties, according to a new Food & Water Watch analysis of campaign contributions from the energy industry. While contributions from oil, natural gas, utility and other energy companies poured into the campaign coffers of Florida’s elected officials, a budding groundswell of public opposition to fracking has bloomed in the Sunshine State.
The Florida legislature is now considering banning the controversial fracking technique to extract oil and natural gas in the state’s delicate ecosystem. Will Florida’s Representatives and Senators stand with the 90 communities representing over 75 percent of Florida's residents that have passed resolutions and ordinances opposed to fracking — or will our elected officials cave to fat cat contributors from the energy industry?
Companies investing in fracking and associated infrastructure expect a big return over the coming decades. In December 2012, oil and gas companies in Florida began applying for permits to drill new wells, including permits targeted in sensitive ecosystems in nearby Big Cypress and the Everglades, where oil reserves are located. In 2013, the Dan Hughes company attempted to use new, unconventional forms of fracking, demonstrating the industry’s intent to frack Florida.
Since then, Florida legislators have twice tried to pass pro-fracking measures to authorize drilling and fracking, but both times Food & Water Watch and a committed grassroots and community based coalition managed to defeat the pro-industry legislation.
In 2017, State Senator Dana Young (R-Tampa) introduced legislation to ban fracking in Florida to stand with her constituents and protect the environment, stating “I believe, and it is the belief of most Floridians, that our fragile limestone geology and fragile environment as a whole is incompatible with fracking of any kind.” The energy companies and organizations that stand to reap financial benefits from oil and gas development have opposed Sen. Young’s legislation.
Dirty energy interests have poured millions in donations to the Florida Democratic and Republican Parties and lawmakers alike — but the GOP has received nearly five times more campaign largesse than the Democrats between 2012 and 2016 ($10.0 million to $2.0 million). All of this special interest money can have a corrosive impact on our democratic process — and it can influence legislators.
Much of this campaign cash came from the companies and special interests positioned to benefit from fracking in Florida. Between 2012 and 2016, the three companies (including their subsidiaries) behind the Sabal Trail pipeline — NextEra Energy, Duke Energy and Spectra Energy — that will ship fracked gas in and out of Florida, gave $5.9 million. The oil, gas and electric utility PACs donated a total of $11.7 million to Florida lawmakers and parties.
For years, fossil fuel, utility and other energy interests have managed to bottle up a fracking ban in the Florida legislative quagmire. Last month, the Senate committee that had long blocked the legislation, held the first ever fracking ban hearing and then unanimously passed Sen. Young’s bill. The bill has wide support in the Senate.
Floridians, however, are waiting for the House to act. Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran (R-Land O’Lakes) has pushed to drain the Tallahassee swamp of the “good old boy” lobbyist culture. He is up against a well-heeled, well-funded dirty energy industry. While the House has stalled the legislation to ban fracking, it appears to be fast tracking a bill that would make Florida ratepayers subsidize Florida Power & Light’s fracking wells in Oklahoma.
Over the past five years, 203 Florida lawmakers received $2.0 million in campaign contributions (averaging about $10,250) from energy industry employees and PACs — more than half of these contributions going to just 50 lawmakers that reeled in over $1.1 million. Republicans made up 49 of the top 50 recipients.
Several prominent pro-fracking legislators received amongst the biggest hauls from the industry. Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-Estero), who sponsored legislation to authorize fracking in Florida for the past four years, received $21,500 from the energy industry — including $6,500 from Duke Energy and NextEra Energy’s PACs. Rep. Carlos Trujillo (R-Miami) has supported the pro-fracking legislation — even though his district includes part of the vulnerable Everglades — and has received $23,000 in industry contributions including $6,000 from Duke Energy and NextEra Energy’s PACs.
It’s time for the Florida House of Representatives to stand up to big business as usual and put Florida communities and the environment first. Please call Speaker Corcoran and ask him to continue standing up to special interests like the oil and gas industry and hold a vote on House Bill 451 to ban fracking.