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DEP Won't Rescind Golden Gate Oil Permits At Advisory Board's Request

Ashley Lopez

State officials aren’t changing their minds about approved permits for oil exploration in Collier County, even at the request of an environmental advisory board.

Several weeks ago, the Big Cypress Swamp Advisory Board recommended that state officials rescind oil permits approved in Golden Gate Estates. However, Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said in a letter to an administrative judge looking at petitions against the permits, that they aren’t going to change their position.

The Naples Daily Newsreported the agency said the board’s purview goes beyond what the DEP has to consider when looking at these permits.

Local environmental activist Matthew Schwartz, who has been fighting the DEP on these and other oil exploration permits in the area, said he’s disappointed DEP isn’t listening to the advisory board.

“They are convinced that they can do this safely without any impacts,” he said. “I think that the research indicates otherwise, that there are impacts in all kinds of ways—especially when you are going into an area that is this sensitive, an area that is right next to one of the most protected pieces of public land in the state.”

Schwartz said the approved oil exploration site sits too close to the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.

The advisory board also warned the DEP the exploration plans don’t include a spill contingency plan and could create traffic problems very close to homes. An administrative law judge is currently looking into complaints that the DEP didn’t properly take the area’s wildlife into account when it approved the permits. The judge should give a ruling in several months. 

Ashley Lopez is a reporter forWGCUNews. A native of Miami, she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a journalism degree.
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