For the past few years, South Florida based Kanter Real Estate LLC has fought for an oil drilling permit on land it owns in the Everglades, a unique and fragile ecosystem that millions of people in South Florida and a variety of wildlife depend on. Earlier this month, a Florida judge revived the oil drilling plans, in a recommendation to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to approve the permit for an exploratory well. The Judge, E. Gary Early, contested the department's previous rejection of the application, claiming the well poses little environmental risk.
The Sun-Sentinel reported, "The judge’s ruling is a recommended order, which gives the environmental department some room to reject it. Under the law, the department must usually accept the judge’s findings of fact but can reject his conclusions of law. If the department again rejects the application, the company can sue in circuit court."
Drilling for oil in Florida is unnecessary, especially given the environmental risks. South Florida's geology consists of porous limestone bedrock that lines the Biscayne and Floridan Aquifers, the drinking water source for millions of South Florida residents. The Everglades is also one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world, and the only UNESCO World Heritage site listed as threatened. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, passed in 2000, is the largest ecosystem restoration project in the world. These restoration and conservation efforts are undermined by continuous proposals to develop and extract resources from the Everglades. An oil spill, infiltration into the aquifer system, or pollution from the toxic brine water produced from the drilling would have devastating consequences to the Everglades.
Fifty percent of the Everglades no longer exists due to human impacts. Only twenty percent of the Everglades that remain are under protection of Everglades National Park. As the Army Corps of Engineers works to undo some of the damage inflicted on the Everglades through water diversion and land development projects over the past 100 years, this oil drilling plan threatens to set back those efforts by continuing the trends that contributed to the Everglades' destruction. U.S. oil output is expected to break records in 2018, in part due to the oil export ban lifted by Obama in 2015. An estimated 2 million barrels of oil a day are exported from the United States to other countries. The potential oil reserves in Florida were estimated by the U.S. Energy Department at 38 million barrels, less than .1 percent of the United States' oil reserves. That oil takes over 11,000 feet of drilling to reach, nearly twice as deep as the average oil well. There is no need for oil extraction in South Florida that would risk the already imperiled ecosystems of the Everglades, a national and ecological treasure. Local governments have drafted resolutions against drilling for oil in the Everglades, but these efforts persist in the pursuit of profit at the expense of the environment and local residents.