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Appeals Court Hears Arguments on Proposed Oil Well in Everglades

Roughly 200 million gallons of dirty crude oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico during the 2010 BP oil spill. (Fibonacci Blue/Flickr)
Roughly 200 million gallons of dirty crude oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico during the 2010 BP oil spill. (Fibonacci Blue/Flickr)
January 8, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A major South Florida landowner will be back in court on Tuesday asking a judge to override a final order by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection against their request to drill an exploratory oil well in the environmentally sensitive Everglades.

Kanter Real Estate is a limited liability company representing Joseph Kanter, a Miami real estate developer and banker who acquired more than 20,000 acres of Everglades land in southwest Broward County for a town that was never built. He’s been fighting for several years to build an exploratory well, 11,000 feet deep on six acres of the land to determine how much oil could be extracted from the heart of the fragile ecosystem.

Matthew Schwartz, executive director of the South Florida Wildlands Association, said the drilling is pointless and hazardous.

"There is just a lot of species in this area that could be hurt, and oil drilling is a messy business,” Schwartz said. “Spills, even small spills, medium spills - everybody thinks of the BP oil well oil disaster - but spills happen all the time. "

In October, an administrative law judge contested the department's previous rejection of the permit application, claiming the well poses little environmental risk and recommending its approval. The proposal was then sent back to the environmental protection agency where it received the final denial.

Schwartz said Kanter's plan is faced with overwhelming opposition because the area overlays the Biscayne Aquifer, the major source of water for people living in South Florida.

"It's extremely porous. It's limestone underneath it, it's almost like a sponge, kind of like a calcified sponge. That's what the Everglades looks like underneath the sawgrass,” he said. “And water passes right through it, so anything that comes off that pad is going to go into the Everglades into the Biscayne Aquifer."

The Everglades, also known as the river of grass, is the largest designated sub-tropical wilderness reserve on the North American continent. A recent report listed it as the most critically endangered site in the U.S.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - FL