Pensacola, Florida
Saturday October 25th 2014

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The Buzz 1/31/13

Another Run at Blackwater

Here we go again. Last year’s idea spit-shined for 2013.

State Rep. Doug Broxson (R-Gulf Breeze) has drafted a proposed bill which would open up Blackwater River State Forest to oil and natural gas exploration.

“People in Jay are excited about it,” the state legislator said. “We’re wanting to do our part to be energy independent.”

Broxson’s bill—H.B. 431—is similar to two bills that died last legislative session. Those bills—sponsored by Sen. Greg Evers and Rep. Clay Ford—sought to open up vast tracts of the state’s public lands before South Florida balked and the scope was narrowed.

“I’ve been told we’ve got about three million acres that are worth taking a look at,” Ford said last year, before the 2012 bills were whittled down to Panhandle-specific legislation.

The bill being proposed this year would allow the governor’s Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund to enter into a contract with a private company. The company would bare the costs of exploration, with the state standing to benefit should the venture realize any revenue—what Broxson calls a “win-win.”

Environmentalists, however, view it differently. As they did last year, they are painting the proposal as dangerous.

“It will pollute one of the cleanest rivers in Florida and threaten a thriving tourism industry in Santa Rosa County,” wrote Linda Young, executive director of the Clean Water Network of Florida.

The representative disagrees. He believes exploration, and drilling, can be done safely in the forrest.

“The footprint is just almost invisible,” Broxson said, adding that modern technology is making drilling safer.

Blackwater is no stranger to drilling. There are wells in the forest that have been retired for decades. Lawmakers—as well as Fairways Exploration and Production, which is currently in Alabama’s neighboring Conecuh National Forest—feel the time might be right to return to the area. Oil that was once considered too expensive to reach might now be a realistic option.

“The world’s changed in 15 years, we’re at $92 to $100 a barrel,” Broxson said.

The representative said that he thinks renewable energies remain out of reach and unrealistic. He tied the pursuit of oil and natural gas in Blackwater to a larger “war for energy.”

“This country cannot survive without petroleum,” Broxson said. “There’s nothing that can compare to petroleum and coal and natural gas.”

Currently, Broxson’s bill has yet to receive a committee assignment. He expects that to happen soon.

“If it’s going to get any traction, it’ll get an assignment,” Broxson said, adding that the house leadership would need to be on board philosophically. “It’ll have to fit in with what they see as good for Florida.”

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Buzzing …

Landfill Fire
For more than a week, Escambia County officials battled a stubborn, smoldering fire at the Cove Landfill. Students at the nearby Elementary School were moved from portable classrooms to the main building to address smoke concerns. The Florida Department of Health has now lifted its health advisory.

Zimmerman’s Baggage
The Florida Auditor General’s Office has released a report addressing the Okaloosa County Commission’s and Tourist Development Council’s lack of oversight over its executive director and advertising firms. The Zimmerman Agency—the same marketing agency hired by Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward last year—was a pass-through for several improperly authorized purchases, including a $710,000 yacht and $181,000 in motorcycles.

UWF + USF = DPT
The University of West Florida is partnering with the University of South Florida to create a pilot program offering a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. UWF students should be able to begin applying for the program in July, with the program set to begin in the summer of 2014.

PYP’s Top 3
The Pensacola Young Professionals recently laid out its top-three priorities addressed in the Mayor’s Urban Redevelopment Advisory Committee report. The group has zeroed in on cultural heritage tourism, more affordable housing downtown, and a simplification of the city’s Land Development Code.

Body in a Field
Authorities recently identified the body found in a field behind Alternative Powersports. Cause of death is currently under investigation. She was 35 with a string of arrest.