Our government can’t really be this stupid, can it?
Our Florida Department of Environmental Protection is allowing one of the dirtiest industries on the planet to dig oil wells in the floodplain of one of the most ecologically important river systems in the country — at a time when experts say that fossil fuels need to remain in the ground if we are to maintain a livable planet.
This is a river system that this same government has spent millions of dollars and thousands of hours protecting.
We are now willing to risk this huge investment — and threaten a world-class treasure — for the possibility of producing more fossil fuels, which are also a threat to our survival.
The Apalachicola River is one of the largest, most pristine rivers in the country. Its floodplain has the highest species diversity of reptiles and amphibians. It’s home to hundreds of species of birds, fish and mammals, including federally threatened and endangered species.
The river is an Outstanding Florida Water, requiring it to receive the highest level of protection allowed by the law, and permits for activities must clearly be in the public interest.
And this company proposes to construct drilling pads, roads, sites for generators and fuel storage — in the hundred-year floodplain that is connected to the city of Port St. Joe’s drinking water supply.
If oil or gas is discovered, the drilling pads and equipment will be expanded! The oil or gas will need to be transported out, and more structures will be needed. More of the floodplain will be involved. The air will get dirtier.
Surely we all know by now that fossil fuel extraction hurts the environment. Exploring and producing fossil fuels is dirty business.
The infamous Keystone Pipeline — as predicted — just spilled more than 350,000 gallons of oil in North Dakota, polluting a wetland.
Lest we forget, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry, happened in the Gulf of Mexico, causing extensive damage to marine and wildlife habitats, fishing and tourism.
And so just as a majority of Americans are recognizing the dangers of climate change and are ready for the country to move away from fossil fuels to renewable energy — now our state intends to give its blessing for the extraction of more fossil fuels?
The bottom line is this: We need to keep the fossil fuel industry out of the Apalachicola River floodplain.
To do otherwise is just plain stupid.
Pam McVety, a biologist and Florida native, worked in executive positions for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for 30 years where she dealt with water management, marine resources, ecosystem management and coastal zone management. Since retiring in 2003, she has lectured and written about climate change.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.