State Representative Doug Broxson (R-Midway) announced today that he is withdrawing HB 431 from consideration during the 2013 legislative session.
The bill would have allowed for drilling and mining of oil and gas resources at Blackwater River State Forest.
"I was not going to stubbornly push something forward that didn't have support," Broxson said. "It's been an awesome process. I've heard from many people and the system worked."
The idea of drilling in Blackwater was met with a large amount of opposition when the bill was first introduced. A group of local residents met at the Santa Rosa County Courthouse every Saturday morning holding signs and collecting signatures on a petition against drilling. More than 2,200 people signed the petition online.
Broxson said the first hurdle to this issue will be relaying data and information about the impact oil drilling has had in northern Santa Rosa County. Secondly, he said people need to heal from the 2010 BP oil spill.
"Emotionally we were very disturbed by what happened with BP and somehow there has been a connection made," Broxson said. "I need a strong indication from my constituents before we move forward."
A town hall meeting in Jay will still be held on Monday at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the issue.
"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 said.
The bill was originally filed on Jan. 22 "as a means to guarantee safety, protect the environment, and increase optimal financial benefit for the state and panhandle," according to a release.
HB 431 would give the governor’s Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund the ability to partner with a business entity to develop oil and gas resources on the Blackwater River State Forest if the “development yields near-term revenues for the state,” according to the bill.