The first time I drove through the Florida Everglades was on a misty morning. The cypress trees were draped in Spanish moss, egrets and other wading birds flew above a river camouflaged in grass and the alligators’ snouts barely broke the surface of the water in the canal. The Everglades struck me as almost prehistoric, and I half expected to see a brontosaurus wandering off in the distance. I had never been any place like the Everglades in all my travels, and I immediately fell in love.
Like most people, the ocean and the warm weather are what drew me to Florida, but treasures like the Everglades, our underground springs, coral reefs and diverse flora and fauna are what make me keep exploring and falling more in love with this beautiful state.
The oil and gas industry has been drilling in South Florida for decades, and plans to expand in the very near future. Over the last year, at least four oil and gas companies have applied for permits to drill in the region. Big Cypress National Preserve, an area in the Everglades that has been drilled on in the past, is being eyed as land ripe for expansion. Companies are looking to drill old wells and build new ones. However, more oil and gas drilling on this public land threatens nearby ecosystems, precious water supplies, agricultural production and the safety of our communities.
Horizontal drilling wells will use millions of gallons of water and thousands of pounds of toxic chemicals throughout the drilling process, putting the Everglades and wildlife like the critically endangered Florida panther at risk. Some things just aren’t worth the money, and I think that protecting these complex ecosystems for generations to come should be a higher priority than seeking to profit from the fossil fuels buried deep beneath them.
In addition, as Floridians, we know all too well how precious our fresh water is. If the oil and gas industry is allowed to expand drilling in the Big Cypress National Preserve, drinking water for millions of South Floridians could be put in jeopardy. As the sea level rises, saltwater has begun to infiltrate our aquifers in South Florida, and we are already tasked with trying to figure out how to protect our fresh water supply. The rising sea level is a result of global climate change, which is itself a result of burning fossil fuels, and yet we want to drill for more dirty fossil fuels in this sensitive habitat, putting our drinking water at further risk? How ironic.
Expansion of unconventional drilling methods (supported by President Obama and the Bureau of Land Management) in the heart of South Florida’s agricultural land, which boasts citrus orchards and fields of vegetables, is concerning. Contamination of South Florida’s aquifers could harm our fresh food and potentially, our public health.
We need to decide: do we really want to gamble with Florida’s future and our nation’s most precious lands, all so that we can maintain our dependence on an unsustainable energy supply, or do we want to protect these beautiful places for generations to come and start truly investing in a sustainable, efficient, renewable energy future? To me, the decision is clear: I choose the egrets, the alligators, the panthers, fresh water and our treasured river of grass over oil and gas. I also choose the safety of the nearby communities who would be exposed to the dangers of drilling. Some things are just too precious to risk.
Take action now to stop the expansion of the oil and gas industry in South Florida. Tell President Obama and the BLM that these are OUR precious public lands!