Court clears way for Everglades drilling
TALLAHASSEE — Overturning a decision by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, an appeals court Tuesday ordered the state to issue a permit to a major Broward County landowner that wants to drill an exploratory oil well in the Everglades.
A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled the department improperly rejected a recommended order by an administrative law judge, who said in 2017 that a permit should be approved for Kanter Real Estate LLC.
The 14-page ruling Tuesday said, in part, that Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein improperly rejected “factual findings” by Administrative Law Judge E. Gary Early. Those findings included that the site targeted for exploratory drilling was environmentally degraded and was isolated from surface water and groundwater.
“Appellant (Kanter Real Estate) correctly asserts that (part of Early’s recommended order) is made up entirely of factual findings and that the secretary improperly relied upon or created an unadopted rule by basing its decision on a ‘long-standing policy to deny oil and gas permits within lands subject to Everglades restoration,’ ” said the appeals-court ruling, written by Chief Judge Brad Thomas and joined by judges Harvey Jay and Robert E. Long Jr.
Kanter, which owns about 20,000 acres in Broward County, applied in 2015 to drill an exploratory oil well on about five acres of its land in the Everglades. The department denied a permit, leading Kanter to take the case to the Division of Administrative Hearings.