82 Organizations Ask EPA to Oppose Company Looking to Drill in Florida Everglades

WASHINGTON – NRDC and 81 other organizations today asked the Environmental Protection Agency to oppose attempts by the Burnett Oil Company, Inc., to drill for oil in the Everglades’ Big Cypress National Preserve. The company is looking to build oil well pads and access roads in wetlands and endangered Florida panther habitat.

The groups are urging EPA to weigh in on whether the permit applications comply with the Clean Water Act, in view of President Biden’s promise to ban new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters, and the administration’s climate initiatives. 

“Filling in waters of the U.S. to accommodate new oil drilling inside a National Park unit like Big Cypress National Preserve,” the groups write in a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan, “is inconsistent with these initiatives and protecting the Preserve from oil drilling would better serve President Biden’s goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.”

“The Biden-Harris administration wants our federal lands to be part of the climate solution, not the problem,” said Alison Kelly, senior attorney for NRDC (the Natural Resources Defense Council.)  “Letting a private company continue to run roughshod over fragile wetlands and encroach on endangered species with its invasive industrial activity is clearly inconsistent with that goal, so we’re asking the EPA to make sure the Sunshine State does the right thing here.”  

“Oil development poses an imminent threat to Big Cypress National Preserve, an iconic part of America’s Everglades and our National Park System,” said Dr. Melissa Abdo, Sun Coast Regional Director for The National Parks Conservation Association “Public lands are integral to President Biden’s efforts to battle climate change and the extinction crisis, and this proposed oil development would be a step in the opposite direction for our country’s climate policy. For the sake of this one-of-a-kind preserve, the endangered species it protects, and the role its ecosystems can play in protecting us from climate change, we are calling on the EPA to formally object to these attempts to drill in Big Cypress.”

BACKGROUND:

Big Cypress is part of the National Park System and a vital part of the Greater Everglades ecosystem. It is home to threatened and endangered species like the Florida panther and the Florida bonneted bat. It provides about 40% of Everglades National Park’s water and recharges underlying aquifers. 

In a highly unusual move, the state of Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection assumed jurisdiction over Clean Water Act Section 404 permitting last December.

The groups’ letter, containing further background on Burnett Oil’s plans, as well as the damage it has caused in previous oil exploration activities, is available upon request. 

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC

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