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Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Florida DEP Secretary Denies Oil Drilling Permit in Everglades (Politico)
DEP secretary rejects judge's recommendation, denies Everglades oil drilling permit
TALLAHASSEE — A state agency chief on Monday issued an order denying a permit for oil drilling in western Broward County, despite an administrative law judge's recommendation that the permit be issued.
Judge Gary Early in October said evidence from a hearing in May showed the risk to the Everglades and regional water supplies from oil drilling was insignificant. He recommended the Florida Department of Environmental Protection reverse itself and issue a permit to the Kanter family for an exploratory well west of Miramar.
But DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein wrote Monday that his department had not issued a permit for oil and gas exploration in the Everglades since 1967. And he noted the Legislature, in adopting the Everglades Forever Act in 1991, designated the drilling site as being within the boundaries of Everglades restoration.
"The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is committed to protecting Florida’s one-of-a-kind natural resources, including the environmentally sensitive Everglades, and administering Florida’s environmental laws," DEP spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller said. "After careful review and consideration, DEP today executed a final order denying Kanter Real Estate’s application for a drilling permit in the Everglades."
John Kanter, president of Kanter Real Estate LLC, said he was "very disappointed" with DEP's decision.
“After hearing all of the evidence during the trial, an impartial Judge concluded the facts and the law were clearly in favor of issuing both permits," he told POLITICO Florida in an email. "We will be assessing our options and take a suitable course of action to protect our property rights in the face of today's decision by the DEP Secretary to ignore the findings and recommendation of impartial and unbiased Judge"
The family sought to drill on five acres within 20,000 acres that the family owns in an area designated as Water Conservation Area 3 near Everglades National Park. The proposed well would be dug 11,800 feet deep at the site located 5.3 miles west of U.S. Highway 27.
DEP officials testified in May during an administrative hearing in Tallahassee that drilling would pose a threat to surface waters and the aquifer that supplies drinking water to Southeast Florida.
But Early wrote in his recommended order that the area called "the Pocket," with existing road access, "is hydrologically isolated from both surface and groundwater and is environmentally degraded and overrun with cattails."
DEP's lawyers, in exceptions to the recommendations filed on Oct. 25, said the Kanter family had given up most "beneficial uses" of the property through a water flow easement provided to the state in 1950.
But in their response filed with the department secretary on Nov. 6, the Kanters said the DEP lawyers did not cite any statute or case law to support their argument that there was a length of time required for a property owner to drill.
"It does not matter that there is a flowage easement over the property," the family wrote in response. "What matters is that that flowage easement did not restrict the fee owners' ownership rights, in particular those to drill for oil at the proposed project site."