An oil drilling proposal in the Florida Everglades was denied Friday by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The DEP’s decision to reject the proposal by Trend Exploration of north Fort Myers, is due to the concerns that oil drilling will negatively affect surrounding water supplies and natural habitats for endangered species such as the Florida panther.

According to the DEP’s ruling, the proposed well is located in the environmentally sensitive Big Cypress watershed, which would be adjacent to areas that would be developed. Also, it was determined that Trend Exploration “failed to ensure there would be no permanent impact on wildlife in the area, including rare and endangered species.”

In addition to concerns over wildlife, the DEP ruled that geological data regarding whether oil wells could be located in the Everglades was “insufficient.”

As stated by the ruling, “The nearest drilling projects to the proposed sites were dry holes and there has been no exploratory drilling there in 40 years. There is insufficient geological data to indicate the likelihood of oil in the area.”

A mass email representing over 30 Florida residents who opposed Trend Exploration’s application was sent to DEP Secretary Shawn Hamilton on Tuesday, which was also directed at Governor DeSantis.

In the email, it states:

Dear Governor DeSantis and Secretary Hamilton,

I urge you to deny a permit for Trend Exploration LLC’s oil drilling proposal (Application 1394) that puts Immokalee residents and Big Cypress at risk.

Allowing oil drilling near the drinking water source for nearby communities is a disaster waiting to happen. Spills could harm drinking water, an unacceptable risk for Immokalee residents and surrounding communities to have to take. To make matters worse, fracking was never banned in Florida, so it is still a threat here.

In addition to harming drinking water sources, the proposed drilling site is near significant cultural and historical sites on Seminole Tribal lands. The tribe has requested a cultural assessment to survey the area for its cultural significance and historical properties.

Finally, this area is also home to the critically endangered Florida panther and threatened gopher tortoise.

Oil drilling does not belong here.

While neither DeSantis nor Hamilton have released a statement following Friday’s decision, the denial to drill in the Everglades aligns with the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir Project that was established in April by DeSantis, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), the DEP, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

According to a report by The Florida Capital Star, the EAA Reservoir Project is a joint attempt to restore the Everglades.

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Casey Owens is a contributing writer for The Florida Capital Star. Follow him on Twitter at @cowensreports. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “oil drilling site” by South Florida Wildlands Association.