Gov. Rick Scott's re-election promise to increase penalties for polluters fell short in 2015.
Scott's Department of Environmental Protection pointed to one bill linked to his promise. But that measure failed to pass during the spring legislative session. It was also a bill limited to fracking -- a type of oil and gas extraction -- not overall environmental protection. Oil and gas wells equal less than 1 percent of the 81,000 businesses and entities that DEP regulates, from paper mills to wastewater treatment plants.
SB 1468 called for increasing penalties from the current $10,000 a day to $25,000 per day for oil and gas companies using "high pressure well stimulation" for a variety of violations that would have harmed the air, water or ground. Those violations included not following DEP rules, improper storage of gas, or refusing to allow a state inspection.
The bill followed a controversial drilling project that was later shut down in Collier County, where Scott calls home.
The bill ended up dying without a full vote when the House went home a few days early amid a fight over Medicaid expansion and the budget.
"No oil regulatory or trade secret bills passed of any kind," said Jennifer Hecker, director of Natural Resource Policy for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, after the session. "No rulemaking from DEP to do anything either."
Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, sponsored the 2015 bill and has introduced a similar bill, SB318, for the 2016 session, which starts Jan. 12. The bill is similar to HB191, which passed a House committee Dec. 2.
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