Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried: We cannot let them drill for oil in the Everglades

Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Credit: Agency website

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried calls it “outrageous” to allow oil-drilling on-shore in the Everglades and Apalachicola basin, a move that would put “precious water, popular beaches, and wildlife at great danger of being tainted by an oil spill.”

Fried sent out emails on the issue through her political committee, Florida Consumers First, saying such activity “would destroy our tourism industry and erase all of the tax money and efforts put into protecting these areas.”

Fried, the only Democrat among the top elected officials — Gov. Ron DeSantis and three Florida Cabinet members — writes that DeSantis and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection “are about to allow oil-drilling in the Everglades and Apalachicola basin.”

Fried says the DEP “has done nothing to stop it,” and it has already approved “two permits to drill in the Everglades in Broward County with more on the way.”

The Phoenix requested information from the DEP about the drilling, but the agency did not readily provide it.

In Florida, public sentiment runs deep against drilling, especially in sensitive areas such as the iconic Everglades.

The Tampa Bay Times’ Craig Pittman wrote recently that “Oil companies have been far more successful with drilling on land in Florida. Under Gov. Ron DeSantis, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection has done little to stop them.”

Pittman writes: “The Texas company proposing to drill near the Apalachicola River is called Cholla Petroleum. The company is seeking permission to sink six exploratory wells, each of them between 13,600 feet and 14,200 feet deep, in an area of Calhoun County between the river and the Dead Lakes, a popular fishing spot.”

In addition, “In the Everglades, the company pursuing a drilling permit is not in the oil business. It’s the family-owned Kanter Real Estate, which owns 20,000 acres in Broward County. The company wants to drill an exploratory oil well on a five-acre site about 10 miles south of Alligator Alley. Kanter did not respond to a request for comment.”

See Pittman’s full report is here.

Fried said the drilling “goes against everything I stand for and will wreak havoc on the environment when an inevitable spill occurs.”

Fried’s email includes a call for donations for her political committee, using a “Click to Donate” button.

Phoenix reporter Laura Cassels contributed to this report.