The boom in U.S. oil production may one day extend to southern Florida, where several companies have proposed operations to extract the valuable black liquid from some of the most sensitive habitats in the state.
No drilling is imminent, since these projects require extensive permitting and preparation. And the plans come as the state looks more likely to pass a ban on fracking, a technique that has unlocked vast oil deposits at what many environmentalists see as an unacceptable cost to water supplies.
But with or without fracking, environmentalists oppose the Florida projects as attempts to thrust unsightly, noisy and environmentally hazardous operations onto land that’s crucial to the state’s wildlife.
“During the time of drilling, it’s extremely loud,” said Matthew Schwartz, executive director of the South Florida Wildlands Association, who has visited existing oil operations at Big Cypress and gone to court to fight new drilling projects. “There are fumes. You’re putting a construction site in the middle of the Amazon of North America.The cumulative impact of oil, development, more people, more cars, is just overwhelming.”