State Rep. Doug Broxson blamed “misinformation” Wednesday for forcing him to withdraw a bill proposing to open the Blackwater River State Forest to oil and natural gas exploration.
“A cloud of smoke and confusion developed over this bill and I couldn’t push it away,” said Broxson, R-Midway.
He said the misinformation came from groups that sold the public on the notion that oil would be spilled into the Blackwater River and that prospectors would spoil hunting, fishing, hiking and camping opportunities.
“Nobody offered to explain the history of drilling in the Blackwater, the safety of the drilling in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties, and the fact that they’ve been doing it for over 30 years and nobody knew anything about it,” he said.
He said a petition opposing House Bill 431 with 2,500 signatures arrived Tuesday at his district office.
In a news release, Broxson defended his introduction of the bill “as a means to guarantee safety, protect the environment and increase optimal financial benefit for the state and Panhandle.”
“The bill related to the way private companies competed for oil leases in the Blackwater River State Forest where drilling and petroleum exploration has already been underway,” the news release said.
Broxson said he remains committed to hosting a town hall meeting Monday in Jay in Santa Rosa County to discuss drilling.
“I look forward to continuing this discussion … as a means to safeguard our quality of life and achieve maximum economic benefit for every citizen in Northwest Florida,” Broxson said in the news release.
He said he is prepared to point out that 14 billion barrels of oil and 770 cubic feet of natural gas have been pumped out of Northwest Florida wells over the decades without leaving a footprint on the environment.
One of the first organizations opposed to H.B. 431 was the Florida Audubon Society and its Pensacola-area chapter.
Audubon spokeswoman Julie Wraithmell congratulated those who helped defeat the bill and applauded Broxson for his decision to withdraw the legislation.
“There’s something to be said for Rep. Broxson. He clearly listened to his constituents on this and we applaud him for that,” Wraithmell said.
Contact Daily News Staff Writer Tom McLaughlin at 850-315-4435 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomMnwfdn.