State Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, wants the state to stop allowing oil exploration permits in the Everglades until legislators have a chance to review the risks of the activity.
In a letter sent today to DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard, Soto criticized the agency for allowing the permits "without meaningful dialogue" with legislators and characterized them as "a major change in policy." He also asked DEP to "clarify whether any of these permits relate to fracking or other similar methods.
Here's the letter:
February 24, 2014
Department of Environmental Protection
3900 Commonwealth Blvd.
Tallahassee, FL 32399
Re – Request to Suspend Oil Exploration Permits in Everglades / Fracking Matters
Dear Secretary Vinyard,
I am writing concerning the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s recently approved permits for oil exploration in the Everglades effective immediately. As you know, we are investing over $70 million this year as part of an over $1 Billion restoration effort for our River of Grass. Permitting oil drilling in the Glades is directly contrary and counter-productive to this major effort.
REQUEST IS HEREBY MADE to immediately suspend all recently approved oil exploration permits in the Everglades to assure the Environmental Protection Committees in both the Senate and House have a chance to review the risks and effects of this decision. In addition, please clarify whether any of these permits relate to fracking or other similar methods. These permits were issued without meaningful dialogue with your legislative partners and represent a major change in policy without our approval.
With tourism and agriculture as our main industries, there is simply too much at stake to permit extensive oil drilling in our state. We learned all too well from the BP Gulf Oil Spill that the effects of an oil spill far outweigh any particular miniscule economic benefit from drilling in comparison. My constituents in Central Florida as well as those on our expansive and scenic coastlines rely heavily on the good will and natural beauty of our Great State for their livelihoods in tourism.
Moreover, it is critical to determine to the extent that these efforts involve any attempt at fracking beneath the Everglades. As you know, the Upper and Lower Floridan Aquifers span our state and provide the vast majority of our water supply. Any contamination of these water bodies could put our entire state supply in jeopardy. In essence, the intrusion and extent of such damage would be unknown and the effects could be potentially devastating by affecting the water source of millions of Floridians.
I look forward to hearing from you promptly on my request. Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.
Darren M. Soto