Far, far from the Florida Capitol, fracking foes brought a bit of Florida politics to Key Largo on Saturday.
A demonstration organized by the Food and Water Watch non-profit group gathered a few dozen activists around a mock oil derrick put up outside state Rep. Holly Raschein’s office near mile marker 99.
Food and Water Watch supports House Bill 451, which would create a ban on using fracking technology for oil drilling. Raschein chairs the House Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee, which has not taken a vote on the bill.
Food and Water Watch was demonstrating to urge the Republican to schedule a vote on the fracking ban. Fracking is when liquid is pushed down at high pressure into hard ground to force open cracks and extract oil or gas.
“Proposed fracking in the Everglades would threaten aquifers that are the source of drinking water for millions of South Florida residents as well as the tourism and business communities that rely on clean water,” said Michelle Allen of Food and Water Watch.
No one was in Raschein’s Key Largo office on Saturday.
Raschein in 2016 voted against a bill that would have made it easier for drillers to use fracking technology but is reviewing the current no-fracking bill, legislative aide Kate DeLoach said Tuesday.
The two-month session of the Florida Legislature hits its midpoint today, with adjournment set for May 5.
Two bills sponsored by Raschein have passed the House committee process and await a full vote by the full House.
HB 397 would tighten rules on releasing the names of state employees who file sexual-harassment complaints and HB 1085 would change the name of Florida Keys Community College to the College of the Florida Keys.
Two local bills have passed two committees and await final review by the Government Accountability Committee. HB 1295 would allow some Monroe County government boards to hold discussion by telephone, owing to the Florida Keys geography. The sessions would have to be accessible to the public and not result in final votes.
HB 951 would change the board makeup of Keys Energy Services, the Lower Keys electric utility, to include residents from the Seven Mile Bridge to Stock Island, not just Key West residents.
In March, Raschein voted against a vacation-rental bill (HB 425) as a member of the House Agriculture and Property Rights Subcommittee. The bill, which would overturn local rules on vacation rentals adopted after 2011, passed on a 9-6 committee vote and continues moving through the Legislature.
Raschein said vacation rentals make housing more expensive for residents of destination areas similar to the Florida Keys. The Florida League of Cities commended her vote. Most vacation-rental rules adopted in Monroe County took effect before 2011.
Raschein has filed a number of appropriation bills seeking state funding for local projects, but the budget process “is still in its early stages,” DeLoach said.
Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206