News Section: Environment
In Surprise Vote, Advisory Group Recommends Denial of Drilling Permit in Big Cypress
BRADENTON – On Monday, the Big Cypress Swamp Advisory Committee voted to recommend against a permit to drill on ecologically sensitive land in Naples, giving oil drilling opponents at least a temporary victory. This appears to be the first time the committee has recommended such a denial.
The committee is an arm of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection had held a meeting earlier this month, but opted to extend the hearing to a second session after strong public opposition. A five-member panel, it consists of an industry representative, a DEP scientist and other environmental experts.
"I get a feeling that approving this permit is pulling our finger out of the dike" said Jon Arthur, the chairman of the committee, who is also a geologist with the DEP.
A group called Preserve Our Paradise was fighting the permit and argued that the BCSAC should have been convened before the permit was issued.
"It's only because we brought the failure to appear in front of the Advisory Committee up in our petition challenging the permit, that the DEP convened the committee for the first time in many years," said the groups attorney Ralf Brookes.
"We are very worried about an oil exploration boom in Southwest Florida, including Collier, Lee and Henry Counties. There have been many permits recently filed and approved for horizontal drilling without ever going in front of the Advisory Committee, though they should have under Florida Statutes."
Brookes said the group is delighted that the advisory board recognized that this permit should not be approved and thinks it bodes well for their chances at having it denied by the state.
"This particular application is a particularly poor location to site a group of four oil wells for exploration, production, injection of wastewater and the water use well for 5 million gallons per month, all within 1,000-feet of residents and less than a mile from the Panther refuge and at least recorded three panther dens."
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