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Environmental Groups Sue To Stop Oil And Gas Exploration In Big Cypress Preserve

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Multiple environmental advocacy groups are suing the National Park Servicein federal court to stop oil and gas exploration in the Big Cypress National Preserve.

They’re concerned about how this will affect wildlife like the endangered Florida panther.

The Texas-based Burnett Oil Co.wants to look for oil and gas on about 70,000 acres of the preserve.

They would drive trucks through the area that are equipped with pads. The pads would use vibrations to map out oil and gas reserves below the ground.  

The park service signed off on the procedure earlier this year after conducting a review of potential environmental impacts.

The complaint said the park’s review was not extensive enough under what’s required by law.

Jaclyn Lopez with the Center for Biological Diversitysaid one example is when the park service found that wildlife would likely be annoyed and leave the area of the exploration.

“When you say that wildlife are going to be harassed and could temporarily leave the area, where will they go? Will the wildlife be in the middle of breeding or rearing young or doing some other type of basic life function that really can’t tolerate the harassment at that time? And we don’t know because they didn’t look at things like that,” she said.

Oil and gas operations are allowed at the preservebecause the subsurface mineral rights are privately owned. 

The complaint asks the judge to enjoin Burnett’s oil exploration until the park service is in compliance with the law.

Lopez says if a judge rules the park service was not in compliance with the law, next steps would likely include a more in-depth study.

The preserve’s representatives declined to comment for this story.

Read the complaint below:

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Topher is a reporter at WGCU News.