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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) — Calling it a step back from a push toward renewable energy, environmental groups are criticizing a set of bills moving through the legislature that would allow power companies to charge customers for out of state fracking projects.

On Tuesday, a Senate panel approved a bill that would undo a 2016 Supreme Court ruling that said companies who levied such charges were overstepping their authority. Power companies have argued the measure would save customers money when natural gas prices increase.

The proposal would give the Florida Public Service Commission the power to permit companies to recover costs for oil and natural gas exploration projects out of state. Such projects could include fracking, a practice that Floridians have pushed against in recent years with dozens of local measures and proposed legislation for an all-out fracking ban within state lines.

In order for a power company to earn a return on its capital expenditures, it would have to generate at least 65 percent of its electricity by using natural gas. According to the measure’s staff analysis, Florida Power & Light — the largest utility company in the state — is the only company that currently meets that requirement.

While customers could potentially save money if natural gas prices increase, they would not reap any of the benefits if no natural gas is found in a well, if production costs increase or if less natural gas is produced than projected.

Sponsored by Sen. Aaron Bean, the bill now heads to the full Senate floor for consideration. A similar House version has cleared one committee.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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