Appeals court orders state to permit exploratory oil well west of Miramar

Everglades National Park

An appeals court last week ordered the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to issue a permit for exploratory oil drilling on a site in the Everglades west of Miramar.

The First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee ordered the DEP to issue a permit to Kanter Real Estate LLC, reversing the state agency’s previous denial of the permit.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled that DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein was wrong to try to enforce what seemed to be an absolute prohibition against exploratory oil wells in the Everglades.

Chief Judge Bradford Thomas wrote in an opinion joined by judges Robert E. Long Jr. and Harvey L. Jay III that the DEP secretary “improperly relied on an unadopted rule which would in practice prohibit all exploratory oil drilling in the Everglades, without statutory authority.”

Kanter Real Estate LLC proposed drilling an exploratory oil well on a five-acre site that is 10 miles south of Alligator Alley and approximately five miles west of U.S. 27.

An expert hired by Kanter Real Estate testified that there was a 23 percent chance of finding oil at the company’s five-acre site.

The municipal government of Miramar and the Broward County Commission have joined environmental organizations in opposing plans for the exploratory oil well.

Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam told the Sun-Sentinel the appeals court decision imperils South Florida’s water supply, and “it’s terrible … to even think of the prospect oil drilling just outside our city.”

John Kanter, president of Kanter Real Estate, told the newspaper that the family-run company was “humbled and gratified by the First District’s ruling.”

The appeals court affirmed an earlier recommendation by a state administrative judge that the DEP issue a drilling permit to Kanter Real Estate. [Sun-Sentinel] – Mike Seemuth

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Yvonne Shaffer