Army Corp. reverses course on increased oil exploration oversight in Florida Everglades

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne
Published: Updated:
Big Cypress National Preserve

One of the very agencies that oversee protecting our environment has reversed course when it comes to oil exploration and the Florida Everglades.

Big Cypress National Preserve, part of the Everglades, is home to vast wetlands, wildlife, different animal species — and oil. Drilling in Florida dates back to the 1940s.

Alison Kelly is a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. She said she doesn’t feel that any oil exploration or development is appropriate in Florida’s Everglades.

And as environmentalists work to protect nature’s playground, David Mica executive director with the Florida Petroleum Council points to balancing human needs.

Mica explains, “There are some that do not want any activity to take place to develop the resources that we vitally depend on.”

That’s where Burnett Oil comes in.

The company got permission four years ago to explore the preserve, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, earlier this year, warned Burnett saying some areas appeared to be rutted in the past by heavy equipment. And ruled it will better regulate the company’s exploration.

Gladys Delgadillo with The Conservancy of Southwest Florida applauded the decision at the time, stating, “This plan should’ve been something that was regulated under the clean water act.”

But then, earlier this month, the Corps reversed course, saying there’s “No clear evidence of any residual adverse effects from Burnett’s activities on the hydrology or biology of big cypress”… Leaving environmentalists scratching their heads.

Kelly said she would “like to know what the basis of that change of position is,” putting the Everglades in the middle of a tug-of-war.

After initial publication, we received the following statement from a Burnett spokesperson regarding the Corps’ decision:

“We have enjoyed a constructive relationship will all regulatory agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and we believe that all the issues raised in their March 6, 2020 letter have been resolved.”

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.