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Conservation groups ask Haaland to block oil drilling in Florida preserve

Conservation groups ask Haaland to block oil drilling in Florida preserve
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A coalition of conservation groups called on Interior Secretary Deb HaalandDeb HaalandOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden officials unveil plan to conserve 30 percent of US lands and water | Watchdog questions adequacy of EPA standards for carcinogenic chemical emissions | Interior proposing revocation of Trump-era rollback on bird protections Biden officials unveil plan to conserve 30 percent of US lands and water Interior proposing revocation of Trump-era rollback on bird protections MORE to deny requests to drill for oil in a section of the Florida Everglades in a letter Tuesday.

The Burnett Oil Company has submitted two applications to the state Department of Environmental Protection seeking permits for a new oil well and the construction of an access road near the Big Cypress National Preserve.

The company is also proposing a second well in the close vicinity of Miccosukee tribal lands. Although the preserve is part of the National Park System, some of the fossil fuels beneath it are privately owned.

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“Both proposed well sites are located in wetlands and primary Florida panther habitat. These proposed oil wells and their associated land clearing, equipment storage, wetlands filling, hydrologic alterations, staging areas, access roads, drilling rigs, storage tanks, fuel tanks, water wells, disposal wells, reserve pits, grading, erosion, sedimentation, and potential oil spills– on their face– would be detrimental to the explicit purposes of the Preserve,” the letter states.

Signers of the letter include the Center for Biological Diversity, Earth Action, Sierra Club and the South Florida Audubon Society.

The wells would also create emissions that threaten the preserve’s status as a vital “carbon sink,” or a reservoir that stores more carbon than it releases, the letter states. The oil company has yet to finish the mitigation process required as part of its National Park Service access permit, the letter states, and it has already done “extensive damage” during the initial phase of oil exploration.

“People don’t come to a national park to see oil wells. The constant threat of oil and gas exploration in Big Cypress National Preserve jeopardizes the sensitive habitat this park provides for endangered species like the Florida Panther, as well as the one-of-a-kind park experience Big Cypress offers to so many visitors,” Cara Capp, senior Everglades program manager for National Parks Conservation Association, said in a statement.

The Biden administration has imposed an indefinite moratorium on new oil and gas leasing in public lands and waters and has set a goal of conserving 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by decade’s end.

The Hill has reached out to Burnett and the Interior Department.