Thursday, July 16, 2015

Message from South Florida Wildlands Association: Threats to Everglades from FPL and oil drillers

Matthew Schwartz, of South Florida Wildlands Association, provides a good summary of the ongoing threats to the Everglades by oil drillers and FPL. Please consider joining and contributing to their efforts.

Dear Friends,

Hope everyone's summer is off to a great start. Sorry to add a bit of ecological gloom and doom into the mix - but here goes.

In the years since South Florida Wildlands has been working to protect wildlife and habitat in the Greater Everglades, we have never faced a combination of issues that have such capacity to destroy and degrade this unique landscape. Folks who live in South Florida and follow local media are aware that a company (Kanter Real Estate LLC) has just applied for a permit to drill for oil and dig limestone mines on 20,000 acres of Everglades it owns in Broward County. Stories below from CBS 4, the Sun-Sentinel and Miami-Herald provide maps and lots of background (including sound bites from South Florida Wildlands) on this breaking story:

Town hall meetings and further action alerts are coming soon on this brand new issue (though very similar to a battle we and our allies fought - and won - over oil drilling in the Western Everglades).

But that's not all. We recently learned that Florida and Power and Light (FPL) is still intent on developing 3,000 acres of primary Florida panther habitat they bought just north of the Big Cypress National Preserve and Seminole Reservation for the purpose of building the largest gas-fired electrical generating plant in the nation. Having lost a lawsuit with the Seminole Tribe of Florida over agricultural zoning on the property, FPL is now asking Hendry County to create a new land use type (Electrical Generating Facility) and move the property into that new classification.

The FPL property is surrounded by public lands that were acquired at tremendous cost and effort (e.g. the Big Cypress National Preserve, Dinner Island Wildlife Management Area, Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest) and contain some of the most important contiguous upland habitat for Florida panthers, black bears, and other wildlife in South Florida. For years, the entire property had been expected to be protected by a Florida Forever land protection project called "Panther Glades." Unfortunately, funds were never available to complete that purchase prior to FPL buying the land for their own purposes. From the standpoint of our stressed out wildlife in South Florida, FPL could not have chosen a worse location for their new power plant if they had tried. Article from the Clewiston News explains more about what FPL is trying get the Hendry County Commission to do for them:

Earlier story on the proposed power plant and its expected impacts on wildlife is here:

Description of Panther Glades is here:

But wait - there's more. In the Big Cypress National Preserve, another company (Burnett Oil Company of Ft. Worth, Texas) is applying for a permit to conduct seismic testing for oil across 110 square miles (70,000 acres) in the heart of the preserve. The intent is to locate oil deposits before opening up the Big Cypress to additional oil drilling. A federal comment period is open until the middle of August. For those wondering how this can take place inside a national preserve - most of the below ground oil rights are owned by a company named Collier Resources while the National Park Service controls only the surface. Collier Resources has leased some of these rights to Burnett Oil for the purpose of the seismic survey. Another news story from the Sun-Sentinel summarizes this project - which would take place on some of the most sensitive and biodiverse wetlands in Florida:

Finally, FPL continues to pursue their plans to construct two new nuclear reactors at Turkey Point on the shores of Biscayne Bay - next to some of the lowest lying land in South Florida (expected to be inundated with only a 6 inch rise in sea level) and right next door to Biscayne National Park. We also expect a final decision this summer from the National Park Service on the request to turn over the eastern side of Everglades National Park to FPL for the purpose of constructing three massive power lines from Turkey Point to points north. An article from the Broward and Palm Beach NewTimes explains how we reached this strange point - in spite of congress having told the National Park Service years ago to buy out all land necessary to protect the lifeblood of fresh water into Everglades National Park:

If you're exhausted reading this email - imagine how we felt writing it. Yes - we also wish the regulatory system worked differently and efficiently to fully protect rare and dwindling natural resources. And that many of the folks involved in pushing these projects forward had a different set of priorities. But these fights will take place under the current conditions and are not going away. This email is meant as a heads up on what's happening in the Everglades - and what's coming Some people call it "America's Everglades." It is. But the Everglades is also one of the most unique habitats on our planet. It deserves far better treatment than it's getting. Please share this email and this information far and wide.

Two things you can do right away to help. First - please donate to South Florida Wildlands Association. Along with our allies throughout South Florida, we fight these battles (and often win) on a shoestring. But small as we are, we have the same 501c3 tax-deductible status as the largest and most well known charities in the nation. We're local and know both the landscape and the decision makers well - 100 percent of your donation stays in South Florida. All donations, no matter how small, are greatly appreciated and allow South Florida Wildlands to carry out the massive amount of education and advocacy work that we do.

Second - separate action alerts with more information and steps you can take are coming on all of these campaigns. But the one up for immediate action is the Hendry County Commission meeting on the FPL power plant in Florida panther habitat. That meeting will take place this evening (July 14) at 5 PM in Clewiston. Full address is: Clewiston City Hall, Commission Chambers, 115 West Ventura Ave, Clewiston, FL. Map link is here:,-80.9349928,15.5z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x88dbfbae39c60a1f:0xf963ea19a33b3162?hl=en

If you're able to make it - and apologies for short notice - tell the commissioners that allowing this completely rural land, rich in wildlife and habitat, to be used by FPL for the largest fossil fuel plant in the country is not an appropriate land use. Keep in mind that no matter what happens this evening, many federal and state permitting steps are still necessary before this plant takes shape. For a preview of what FPL has in mind, a twin of the proposed power plant - which FPL has already constructed just north of the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge (for some reason, FPL seems to like building next to public lands and wildlife habitat) - is shown in the photo below:

Feel free to call or email on any of the above with comments or questions.

Best regards,

Matthew Schwartz
Executive Director
South Florida Wildlands Association
1404 East Las Olas Blvd.
P.O. Box 30211
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33303

All donations of $55 and above now receive a South Florida Wildlands T-shirt. Specify color and size by email.

South Florida Wildlands Association
P.O. Box 30211
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 33303


Anonymous said...

FPL is recognized as a clean energy company. What can they possible do wrong? FPL plan years into the future. What could go wrong if they have excess demand? They sell the excess demand to 27 other states.
Look mom they even have solar! They are clean as can be.

Anonymous said...

FPL is a rogue corporation.

Anonymous said...

FPL takes what the corrupt elected officials (GOP) gladly gives.

It's on us citizens to toss the losers out, otherwise we get what we vote into office.

Let's give a hand to Matt Schwartz who does a nice job taking the lead in protecting the environment without the funding and hoopla of other environmental groups.

Anonymous said...

I urge everyone to comment on the big cypress national preserve website or in the Miami herald article and it has a link that will take you there. Let me say I have had enough of the constant assault towards the whole environment. In this great state but what's more sick is now they are attempting to do even more oil drilling in big cypress and destroy what i consider the crown Jewel of south Florida and the state. Let me say with everyday I am seeing the repeat of the battle that the jetport caused that created big cypress and looks to me they are testing the waters . I urge everyone to contact as many environmentalists and local leaders that have supported environments causes and make a strong push to stop this project and the other atrocities that are trying to be pushed through . My two cents . Alex

Anonymous said...

It is important to comment on the Federal actions - on the NPS website set up specifically for public input on Environmental Impact Statements.

It is most effective to write a unique letter with your name on it if possible and for your organization to post a thoughtful position. NPS is a cash strapped agency with a lot of responsibility. If they cannot buy the mineral rights to Big Cypress from the Collier family, they have to entertain this sort of thing. They also have to listen to the People and do so if enough people object in thoughtful ways. NPS is charged with protecting these natural resources so let's make them do it.

cyndi said...

I was just out there last month at sta 5-6 and we went to dinner island. this is terrible,