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Minority Office — Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 6, 2014

CONTACT: Michelle DeMarco, 850.487.5833


Senator Soto Welcomes U.S. Senator Bill Nelson’s Intervention In Possible Everglades Fracking

Tallahassee —

State Senator Darren Soto (D-Orlando), a vocal opponent of oil exploration in the Florida Everglades region hailed a request by U.S. Senator Bill Nelson to ask for a federal probe into possible fracking activity in the environmentally sensitive area.

“The possibility of fracking confirms my worst fears,” said Senator Soto. “This is precisely why I have repeatedly called on the state Department of Environmental Protection to immediately suspend all oil drilling permits, including the one issued to the Hughes Co. The area – not just Everglades National Park but the entire Everglades region – is too fragile and too vulnerable to incredible damage should something go wrong. I applaud Senator Nelson for intervening and seeking a more thorough, independent examination of just what’s been going on.”

In a letter last week, Senator Nelson requested that the nation’s top environmental regulator investigate whether the Dan A. Hughes Co. was engaging in unauthorized oil drilling activity similar to fracking in Collier County near the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.

The company has defended its drilling procedures, and denied that any fracking has occurred. It was fined $25,000 for violating terms of its drilling permit by the state DEP – four months after the unauthorized activity was first discovered. On Friday, one day after Senator Nelson’s request for a federal investigation, the agency ordered the company to halt all drilling activity in southwest Florida.

 A copy of Senator Soto’s February letter to the DEP appears below:

 February 24, 2014

 Herschel Vinyard

Secretary

Department of Environmental Protection

3900 Commonwealth Blvd.

Tallahassee, FL 32399

Re – Request to Suspend Oil Exploration Permits in Everglades / Fracking Matters

Dear Secretary Vinyard,

I am writing concerning the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s recently approved permits for oil exploration in the Everglades effective immediately. As you know, we are investing over $70 million this year as part of an over $1 Billion restoration effort for our River of Grass. Permitting oil drilling in the Glades is directly contrary and counter-productive to this major effort.

REQUEST IS HEREBY MADEto immediately suspend all recently approved oil exploration permits in the Everglades to assure the Environmental Protection Committees in both the Senate and House have a chance to review the risks and effects of this decision. In addition, please clarify whether any of these permits relate to fracking or other similar methods. These permits were issued without meaningful dialogue with your legislative partners and represent a major change in policy without our approval.

With tourism and agriculture as our main industries, there is simply too much at stake to permit extensive oil drilling in our state. We learned all too well from the BP Gulf Oil Spill that the effects of an oil spill far outweigh any particular miniscule economic benefit from drilling in comparison. My constituents in Central Florida as well as those on our expansive and scenic coastlines rely heavily on the good will and natural beauty of our Great State for their livelihoods in tourism.

Moreover, it is critical to determine to the extent that these efforts involve any attempt at fracking beneath the Everglades. As you know, the Upper and Lower Floridan Aquifers span our state and provide the vast majority of our water supply. Any contamination of these water bodies could put our entire state supply in jeopardy. In essence, the intrusion and extent of such damage would be unknown and the effects could be potentially devastating by affecting the water source of millions of Floridians.

I look forward to hearing from you promptly on my request. Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Darren M. Soto