The Phoenix Flyer

Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried asks supporters to sign petition against FL DEP over Everglades oil drilling

By: - May 21, 2019 11:30 am
The Everglades

The Everglades. Credit: National Park Service

It’s not often you see a state Cabinet official asking people to sign a petition against a fellow state agency. But that’s what Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried is asking her supporters to do.

In an email from a Political Action Committee called “Florida Consumers First,” Fried – Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat – urges supporters to pressure the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to block Kanter Real Estate’s plans to drill for oil on the edge of the  Everglades. The Florida DEP denied the company’s plans to drill exploratory wells in South Florida, but stopped fighting after a key court decision upheld the company’s right to drill.

“Tell the Florida DEP that we will not sit by and watch them destroy our water, our wildlife, our homes,” Fried writes. “Sign this petition now to protect Florida from reckless drilling.”

The email features a logo of Nikki Fried, Agriculture Commissioner, that’s from her campaign – not her official office.

According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, local governments in Broward County and Miramar also dropped a legal fight to get the Florida Supreme Court to hear the case, saying they didn’t receive enough cooperation from the state DEP.

Kanter Real Estate needs local approvals before proceeding with any exploratory drilling. (The Kanter permit is different from another one that’s generated controversy in the Big Cypress area near the Everglades.  Oil drilling leases have been active in Big Cypress for decades.)

“Our Department of Environmental Protection is refusing to block efforts to drill for oil in the Everglades,” Fried’s email says. “You read that right — a state agency tasked with protecting the environment will allow oil drilling in the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. Made up of 1.5 million acres of wetland, the Everglades is home to numerous endangered species. Drilling there would destroy their habitat and taint the Biscayne aquifer underground, which supplies water to millions of people in this state.”

“This all happened while I was in Washington, D.C., asking for help with our state’s timber industry, which was devastated by Hurricane Michael, and warning the federal government about the wildfire dangers of all of the trees that fell during the storm… We need to work harder to protect our land, air, and water. This is where we live.”

A DEP spokeswoman wouldn’t comment on why the agency was no longer coordinating with the city of Miramar and Broward County to pursue further legal action, the Sun-Sentinel reported, but said: “We will continue to work with the county and city to provide technical assistance on this matter.”

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Julie Hauserman
Julie Hauserman

Julie Hauserman has been writing about Florida for more than 30 years. She is a former Capitol bureau reporter for the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times, and reported for The Stuart News and the Tallahassee Democrat. She was a national commentator for National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday and The Splendid Table . She has won many awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work is featured in several Florida anthologies, including The Wild Heart of Florida , The Book of the Everglades , and Between Two Rivers . Her new book is Drawn to The Deep, a University Press of Florida biography of Florida cave diver and National Geographic explorer Wes Skiles.