Florida resumes court fight against oil drilling plan in Everglades

A plan for oil drilling in the Everglades ran into a major obstacle Wednesday, when the state of Florida went to court to stop it and promised to assist local governments in their own fight against the project.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection asked for a rehearing before all the judges of the First District Court of Appeal, where a three-judge panel had ordered the state to issue a drilling permit to Kanter Real Estate LLC for a spot in the Everglades of western Broward County.

“Protection of the Everglades is of exceptional public importance because it affects residents of the State of Florida as a whole,” the department said in its motion. “The restoration of the Everglades is a matter of heightened public interest, and public interest alone should be deemed sufficient to demonstrate that it affects large numbers of persons throughout the State of Florida.”

Kanter, which owns 20,000 acres in the Everglades, has proposed an exploratory well a few miles west of Miramar.

The company, which represents the family of real estate and banking figure Joseph Kanter, proposed a well that would extend about 11,800 feet underground at a 5-acre site about 5 miles west of U.S. 27 and 10 miles south of Alligator Alley. According to courtroom testimony by the company’s expert, the project has a 23 percent chance of finding oil. If oil were found, the company’s expert said it could be possible to extract 180,000 to 10 million barrels.

At a news conference Tuesday at the edge of the Broward Everglades, environmentalists and political leaders called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to authorize a continuation of the legal fight, saying the state should appeal the ruling.

Wednesday night, the Department of Environmental Protection announced the decision.

“Today, the Department filed a Motion for Rehearing and a Request to Certify the case to the Florida Supreme Court regarding the recent opinion reversing the Department’s decision to deny the Kanter Real Estate exploratory oil drilling permit,” the Department of Environmental Protection said in a statement. “The Department is committed to the protection and restoration of Florida’s Everglades and will work with Broward County and local municipalities to provide technical assistance as they pursue their own action regarding this matter. We will also monitor any federal regulatory actions related to this issue.”

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