The fight against an oil drilling plan for the Everglades will next move to the Broward County Commission, which has scheduled a discussion Tuesday with attorneys on how to stop the project.
The commission had long opposed the proposal by Kanter Real Estate LLC for an exploratory well in the Everglades west of . A state appeals court last week the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to issue Kanter a drilling permit.
But the company, which represents a family that owns 20,000 acres in the Everglades, still needs other permits, including a land-use change from Broward County, since the site is classified as conservation land.
"I think we‘re going to stick to our guns and this defend this with everything we‘ve got," said , who placed the oil-drilling item on the agenda for Tuesday’s commission meeting in Fort Lauderdale. "There are a number of options that we have."
, the company’s president, declined comment.
Furr said there are two major avenues for stopping the project: Going to court to file another appeal and denying the project any necessary permits or land-use changes. He said an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court appears likely.
The project would also need a zoning change from the County Commission. The land is zoned “Conservation – 1, Conservation District-Water Supply Areas.”
“Permissible uses are limited to utilities, transportation and communications facilities, specifically excluding hazardous liquid pipelines and electrical power plants," wrote senior assistant county attorney Michael C. Owens in a 2015 email about the project. Permissible uses, he wrote, do not include "exploratory oil well drilling."
This issue has not been resolved by Kanter.
"As noted in prior updates, the project has not yet addressed Broward County‘s land use, zoning, and environmental requirements," Owens wrote in a Feb. 5 memo to the County Commission.
In an interview, Owens said the company would need a series of county permits — a surface water management permit, environmental resource permit, a hazardous facilities management license and probably others. But he said the land-use issue may prove the strongest impediment to the project.
Judges have tended to show great deference to the broad decisions represented in county land-use plans, he said.
They would be particularly unlikely to overturn Broward’s, he said, since it had been in place long before the proposal for the oil well.
The state DEP had originally denied the permit. But the company appealed and won in a state administrative court, which found that the land was degraded, overrun with non-native plants and hydrologically isolated. The state refused again to issue a permit, and the company appealed.
Last week a three-judge panel of the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee ordered the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to issue the permit, touching off an who wanted to defend the world-famous marsh.
Furr said he doubted the commission would approve changes to make possible a project that commissioners believe will threaten water supplies and the Everglades, at a time when huge amounts of money are being spent to restore the Everglades.
"Everyone‘s trying to put the Everglades back where it was and allow the sheet flow again to Florida Bay," he said, referring to the broad sheet of shallow water that once inched across the Everglades. "If they‘re allowing sheet flow, all you need is one oil spill to have it just carry all the way through there. This is in absolute contradiction to everything this state and legislators on both sides has been trying to do in trying to restore the Everglades."