Broxson Withdraws Bill To Allow Oil Drilling In Blackwater River Forest
February 20, 2013
[Updated 1 p.m.] Rep. Doug Broxson withdrew a bill today that would have allowed private companies to drill for oil and gas in the Blackwater River State Forest in north Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties. The bill was withdrawn after public outcry against the idea.
Broxson said drilling could have created as many as 300 new jobs while creating $30 to $60 million in revenue for the state. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission had already given a nod to the plan to drill on 190,000 acres if natural assets were not disturbed.
The idea of drilling in a pristine forest has sparked a public outcry to stop the legislation. Sisters Marsha and Erin Fuqua created a Facebook page Save Blackwater River State Forest that has grown to over 1,500 likes, while a petition against Broxson’s bill has accumulated over 2,200 signatures.
“Since filing HB 431, our office has received many emails and phone calls, both in support and opposition to this bill, but very few people seem to have a sense of what the bill actually does,” Broxson said Wednesday afternoon. “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.”
Broxson will still hold town hall meeting on Blackwater drilling on Monday, February 25 at the Jay Community Center from 5:30 until 7:30 p.m. The meeting will include representatives from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the Florida Forrest Service, who will provide information and answer questions regarding the issue of oil drilling on state lands.
“I look forward to continuing this discussion on Monday and in the future as a means to safeguard our quality of life and achieve maximum economic benefit for every citizen in Northwest Florida,” Broxson said.
Oil fields have operated in Jay — less than 10 miles from the Blackwater River State Forest — since the early 1970’s when oil and gas were discovered in northern Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 1p.m. on 2/20/2013 to reflect Broxson’s bill was withdrawn hours after our original story was posted.