TALLAHASSEE — The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled Tuesday that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) must issue a permit to a major Broward County landowner who plans to drill an exploratory oil well near the southern end of U.S. 27.
The court overruled the DEP’s rejection of an administrative law judge’s finding that the agency should approve a permit for Kanter Real Estate LLC. The firm owns about 20,000 acres in Broward and had applied in 2015 to drill an exploratory well on approximately 5 acres of its land near the Everglades and Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area west of Pembroke Pines.
Chief Judge Brad Thomas, with Judges Harvey Jay and Robert E. Long Jr., found that the administrative judge had decided the permitting was proper because the applicant had met all requirements, basing his decision on factual findings. They ruled that the DEP had improperly based its decision on “long-standing policy to deny oil and gas permits within lands subject to Everglades restoration,” in effect creating an unadopted rule.
The DEP had denied the permit saying that the state had not issued such an exploratory permit in the Everglades since 1967. But Judge Thomas wrote that a Kanter expert testified there is a 23 percent chance of finding oil at the site and that, if it were, between 180,000 and 10 million barrels could be produced.
The Sierra Club of Florida promptly declared the ruling “a horrific blow to the Everglades, this time in the midst of the Everglades ‘Protection’ Area (water conservation areas in Broward County).” Commenters on their post were uniformly appalled. with one stating, “May the pythons find him (the landowner) first.”
Immokalee Bulletin reporter/editor Chris Felker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.