A Texas-based company has applied for permits to begin preparation for oil drilling inside Big Cypress Natural Preserve, a federally protected forest with endangered species bordering the Florida Everglades.
According to environmental conservation groups, there were no public notices listed for the permit applications on the state’s wetlands permitting database.
The company applied for the permits just days after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Trump Administration controversially ceded authority for wetlands permitting to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, an independently-elected member of the Florida Cabinet, has been highly critical of the EPA’s decision to grant Florida this authority under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.
Last November, Commissioner Fried submitted testimony to the EPA opposing the yielding of wetlands permitting to the State of Florida, after expressing opposition last October.
In December, she wrote to incoming EPA Administrator Michael Regan asking him to reconsider the prior Administration’s decision. Earlier this week, Commissioner Fried released a state-federal partnership plan in which she asks the Biden Administration to reevaluate the EPA decision. Fried, whose opposition was lauded by Sierra Club Florida, joined thousands of public comments opposing the EPA’s surrendering wetlands permitting authority.
In response to the Texas company’s permit applications, Commissioner Fried offered the following statement:
“Protecting Florida’s waters, wetlands, and ecosystems has always been a top priority for me, which is why I strongly opposed the state taking over wetlands permitting and ending crucial federal oversight. Now, we’re already beginning to see exactly what we hoped to avoid – potential giveaways of our pristine environment to the fossil fuel industry. I called earlier this week to permanently prohibit oil drilling off Florida’s coasts, and we don’t need drilling in our wetlands, either. These folks can look for oil somewhere else – keep your drilling in Texas, and don’t mess with Florida.”