Strong opposition to oil-drilling project close to Miramar

Florida Department of Environmental Protection headquarters

Country officials and mayors fearful of environmental damage

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is currently reviewing an application for an oil drilling permit in the Everglades, just six miles west of the City of Miramar.

However, Broward County officials, including county officials and mayors of several Broward cities, are strongly protesting to the project, mindful of environmental damage that could affect Miramar particularly.

Last month Kanter Corporation, a Miami real-estate company, applied for a state permit to drill an exploratory oil well in the Everglades. The reaction by Broward officials was immediate. City of Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam summoned a town-hall meeting, including other county mayors and officials, to express opposition to the oil-drilling project.

“The news was very alarming,” says Mayor Messam. “There are so many potential risk of any oil drilling activities to take place in the fragile Everglades, especially going through the Biscayne aquifer, which is the main water source for most utilities for cities throughout South Florida, including Miramar. I have to speak out on behalf of the residents.”

The Mayor of Pembroke Pines also convened a town hall meeting opposing the project.

In its opposition, the Broward County Commission earlier this month voted unanimously to seek an amendment to state law giving counties the legal authority to determine whether drilling for oil is permissible within their borders, rather than permission granted by the state.

Fort Lauderdale geologist Kevin Francis said there’s a possibility oil could be found at the proposed drilling site “or anywhere else in South Florida,” as there’s a large vein of crude oil called the Sunniland Trend running west to east across the region. However, this deposit is very deep, over 10,000 feet down, which will require expensive drilling.

Attempts to contact Kanter Cooperation for information about the drilling project was unsuccessful, but according to reports, the company plans involve drilling a 12,000 feet well. Coinciding with the filing for its application for an oil-drilling permit, Kanter issued a statement indicating steps would be taken to protect the region’s environment. “We value Florida’s precious natural resources and believe the team of experts we have hired will allow us to complete the project safely while protecting Florida’s environment’” the statement read.

Kanter also stated the drilling site was part of 20,000 acres the company owned. The oil-drilling project is the early phase of a long-term plan that also includes rock mining, water storage and water quality improvement components “that have the potential for assisting with Everglades restoration.”

But Martin Pindlin, a former Miami environmental engineer now residing in Georgia, says, “It’s extremely risky to drill oil so close to a city. There’s potential for the city’s water supply to be contaminated. I would be surprised if the zoning codes of Broward County allow oil drilling so close to a city.”

Earlier this month, Broward County’s staff apprised commissioners the proposed drilling site is zoned only for conservation. Commissioner Dale Holness said, “This clearly prohibits any oil drilling project. The zoning codes are clear.”

But residents of Miramar generally seem unconcerned about the possibility of an oil-drilling project so close to their city.

“I doubt that would ever happen,” said Johnnie Kirk. “This reminds me of the failed Goat Island project in Jamaica. The environmentalist lobby is so strong, especially regarding the everglades, it will kill any oil-drilling plans.”

Eugene Bailey was more dubious. “If oil-drilling so near to West Miramar had strong economic potential, West Miramar would be a huge oil-drilling plant, not a residential sprawl. This project is a no-go.”

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