House Passes Wasserman Schultz Measure to Block Everglades Drilling

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Washington, June 19, 2019 | comments
“Billions have been spent on the Everglades restoration plan, to restore and protect these invaluable wetlands, prairies and sawgrass marshes, and I won’t sit idly by while it’s under assault."
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The House of Representatives passed an amendment authored by U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) today that would block oil drilling in the Everglades.

“We must do all we possibly can to protect our sensitive River of Grass,” said Wasserman Schultz. “Drilling within the Everglades Protection Area is reckless, rapacious and symbolizes just how much those who advocate for the senseless pursuit of fossil fuels will risk, even if it destroys our most treasured ecosystems. It’s absurd it even has to be said, but we must fight any drilling in the Everglades.”

An investment company wants to build an oil well just west of Miramar, near the Broward and Miami-Dade County line, in an area that sits above the Biscayne Aquifer and within the Everglades Protection Area. This drilling request has been mired in legal and state bureaucratic controversy since it was filed.

Recently, the City of Miramar and Broward County backed off a legal appeal to the Florida Supreme Court after the Florida Department of Environmental Protection abandoned its fight against the oil well. The Congresswoman’s measure would prohibit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from issuing a permit for this project, which would clearly endanger a fragile ecosystem that helps supply water to nearly 8 million South Floridians.

“Billions have been spent on the Everglades restoration plan, to restore and protect these invaluable wetlands, prairies and sawgrass marshes, and I won’t sit idly by while it’s under assault,” Wasserman Schultz said.

Specifically, Wasserman Schultz’s amendment prohibits the Army Corps from issuing a Clean Water Act Section 404 permit for projects that discharge dredging in Water Conservation Areas 3A and 3B in Florida. The Army Corps oversees this permitting process, and the proposed well location is on the border of these two areas.

The purpose of the amendment is to protect the water supply of South Florida and protect the still-recovering Everglades ecosystem, which Florida and federal taxpayers have invested more than $3.7 billion in state and federal funds to restore. The amendment is now part of a larger mini-bus of appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2020. The Senate must act next, and House negotiators could then resolve the respective appropriations measures later this year.

The amendment passed today would block well permitting in the identified Everglades Conservation Areas for the coming fiscal year year, and additional prohibitions could be sought by Congress in the future. Congressman Alcee Hastings (FL-20) was key in helping secure the amendment, and it passed with strong bipartisan support from Florida Reps. Donna Shalala (FL-27), Lois Frankel (FL-21), Charlie Crist (FL-13), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25) and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26).

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