Oil and Gas Keep Pumping Next Door to 'Pristine' Everglades

By: Kenric Ward | Posted: August 31, 2011 3:55 AM

Florida Oil Fields

Map of oil fields in the Everglades

While environmentalists blasted GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann for broaching the subject of oil-drilling in the Everglades, petroleum is pumping right next door.

Since oil was discovered in eastern Collier County in 1943, Humble Oil Co. and its independent successors have been extracting oil from under the 729,000-acre Big Cypress federal wildlife preserve adjacent to the Everglades National Park.

With advances in horizontal and directional drilling, industry experts say reserves under the park could be tapped from outside.

"People called [Bachmann's] remarks outrageous. It's outrageous that we not give science consideration wherever the oil is," said Dave Mica of the Florida Petroleum Council.

In recent years, 10 wells tapping into the Sunniland Trend underneath the Big Cypress preserve have pulled up an average of 3,400 barrels a day.

"Given the new technologies, the area has some prospects geologically. Depending on oil prices, you might see some new activity," Mica said.

The Sunniland Trend is a well-defined hydrocarbon-bearing geological layer that stretches from Fort Myers to Miami. Located on the northeast flank of the South Florida Basin, it is the largest unexplored geological basin in the lower 48 states.

Over the past 68 years, 14 named discoveries have been made in the Trend and in excess of 118 million barrels of crude oil have been produced from eight commercial oil fields, according to Collier Resources Co.

Because of its relatively high sulfur content, Florida's "sour" crude isn't as desirable or marketable as "sweet" varieties. But independent jobbers continue to scratch out a living in the Southwest Florida oil patch.

"Most of our jobs -- metalurgists, geologists, technical people -- are significant in terms of pay," Mica explained.

The biggest impediment to growth is politics, he says.

"We have a good track record in this state," says Mica, noting that the biggest local accident he can remember was an overturned tanker truck. "But the NIMBY problem is very substantial."

In 2002, the federal government, at the urging of President George W. Bush, bought back oil and gas drilling rights in the Everglades preserve for $120 million.

Going forward, Mica says it is crucial that exploration continues around, or even in, the 'Glades.

"For the last 20 years, decisions have been driven more by political will than by economics. It's hard enough to [extract oil] when we're allowed to do it. To shut it down arbitrarily is wrong," he said.

Not surprisingly, the Miami-based Everglades Foundation takes exception.

"Congresswoman Bachmann needs to undersand that oil and drinking water do not mix," foundation CEO Kirk Fordham said Monday.

Others, however, point out that the Everglades aren't as "pristine" as advertised or hoped for, and that oil exploration has not substantially contributed to the problem.

Despite billions of dollars expended on restoration projects, flows of phosphorous and other contaminants continue to pollute the famed River of Grass.


Contact Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 801-5341.

Comments (4)

1:30PM AUG 31ST 2011
I'm a native Floridian and I believe drilling in the Everglades would be great. I guess it's OK to put our troops in harms way for oil but not OK to jeopardize any part of Everglades. How sad.

I've been to the Everglades... It's a swamp. I have no desire to ever see it again.

We need oil and jobs and that's it!!
Robert Lloyd
12:22PM SEP 1ST 2011
Appreciated your comments bobb. I wonder how many of these touchy-feely environmentalists have EVER gone into the Everglades and tried to enjoy some family fun activities? Not a one. As you said... it is a swamp!

We are bankrupting Florida pumping money into this muck. The buyouts in east Naples and the abandonment of the already built road structure in Golden Gate are destructive to our communities and we will never recover from this in our lifetimes. Our children will pay dearly for these crimes against culture.
11:55AM AUG 31ST 2011
You should call Rep. Allen West for comment. He said at his town hall this week that Bachmann's comment was ""an incredible faux pas." He explained that her comment was, " "a horrible thing to say. The Everglades is one of the natural wonders of the world. . . . That's an incredible ecosystem and it's a wetland that is natural and pristine and that's something we have to preserve for our future generations."

Rather than make it appear that only the Everglades Foundation objects to drilling, it should be explained that other Tea Party Republicans also oppose drilling in the 'Glades.
Robert Lloyd
11:22AM AUG 31ST 2011
I can't think of a better place to drill outside of the north slope of Alaska than some worthless swamp reverently called the Everglades.

Where are the real people that will stand up here and be counted? Running from godless liberalism no doubt.

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