The chief judge of the 1st District Court of Appeal appeared skeptical Tuesday of a decision by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to block a Broward County landowner from drilling an exploratory oil well in the Everglades.
A three-judge panel of the appellate court heard arguments in an appeal by Kanter Real Estate, LLC, a major landowner in western Broward that has sought a permit to drill the well. An administrative law judge said in 2017 that Kanter Real Estate had met the requirements for a permit and recommended approval.
But the issue had to go back to the Department of Environmental Protection for a final order, and agency Secretary Noah Valenstein denied the permit, saying the lands involved are “in the environmentally sensitive Everglades” and that the department had not issued such an exploratory permit in the Everglades since 1967. But during the hearing Tuesday, appeals-court Chief Judge Brad Thomas said the proposed drilling site is “degraded” property that has been overrun with invasive species and that water flow is not an issue in the area.
“There is no environmental sensitivity here,” Thomas said. But department attorney Jeffrey Brown said Valenstein acted reasonably in denying the permit. It was not clear how quickly the court will rule in the case.