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Environment

A plan to drill two more oil wells in Big Cypress Swamp is being challenged

An environmental advocacy group is challenging a plan to drill two more oil wells near the Everglades in the Big Cypress Swamp.

State environmental regulators last week denied a request by an oil company to drill wells near the Everglades.

But another company wants to drill two wells in the nearby Big Cypress National Preserve.

The drilling is being opposed by the environmental advocacy group Earthjustice.

Tania Galloni, an attorney with the Florida office of Earthjustice, says it's part of a larger challenge to a move done at the end of the Trump administration to transfer authority to bulldoze wetlands to Florida.

Galloni says the state has been lax in protecting wetlands.

"If you consider that Florida is at one of the greatest threats of sea level rise and climate change from intensifying storms," Galloni said, "the idea that we would drill for oil at all — and begin new drilling in the Everglades, one of the most ecologically sensitive parts of the state and for the region — it really makes no sense at all."

The above video is courtesy of Save Big Cypress and Earthjustice. It shows cypress trees and endangered flora mowed down by oil trucks inside Big Cypress National Preserve. Video obtained by Freedom of Information Act request by NRDC.

Galloni said the same oil company did seismic exploration several years ago, and there's concern about how much environmental damage that caused.

"We're also in a situation where people are finally starting to recognize the climate crisis that we're in," Galloni said. "And so the idea of — in Florida, of all places — to start new oil drilling, and to do it in the country's first national preserve, is pretty concerning."

She says another permit from the National Park Service is needed before Burnett can begin drilling.

Nine wells have been pumping oil from a small section of the Everglades since the early 1940s. It produces low-grade crude mostly used for lubrication and paving roads.

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