On Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a massive land buyout of 20,000 acres in western Broward County designed to kill any plans to drill for oil in the Everglades. The state will between $16.56 to $18 million depending on when the deal closes with Kanter Real Estate LLC.
Kanter Real Estate represents family banker and developer Joseph Kanter, who proposed to drill an exploratory well in the Everglades 5 miles west of U.S. 27 and 10 miles south of Alligator Alley. The plan was opposed by environmental groups and local governments. DeSantis’s own Department of Environmental Protection also fought the plan in court, but the court sided with Kanter, prompting DeSantis to move quickly to settle the dispute.
There is no state law preventing landowners from drilling in the Everglades, provided they meet all environmental and regulatory requirements.
According to Kanter’s testimony in the case, they projected a 23% chance of discovering oil on the site, and a well could produce between 180,000 to 10 million barrels of oil with an estimated value of between $9 million and $50 million based on a price of $50 per barrel.
“We will permanently save the land from oil production,” said DeSantis. “It will also be the largest land acquisition in a decade. The land is in the heart of the Everglades, in Western Broward County,”
Since taking office, DeSantis has pushed for several pro-environment initiatives including installing his own board members in the South Florida Water Management District. His goal is to have the board establish a way to address toxic algae, increase funding for Everglades restoration and devote more resources towards climate change.
Even so, environmentalists have been skeptical of his initiatives. Sierra club criticized his support for a new toll road passed through wildlife habitats, and his lack of initiatives to minimize Florida’s use of fossil fuels.
But the move to acquire the land from Kanter may staunch some of that criticism.
“This land in particular is home to over 60 endangered species and with this acquisition there will be nearly 600,000 acres of wetland and water conservation in area three that will be protected by public ownership from restoration and for recreation,” said DeSantis.
The last time a Florida governor announced plans to buy land in the Everglades, things didn’t go as planned. Charlie Crist in 2008 announced a $1.75 billion plan to buy vast tract of land, including 26,800 acres from U.S. Sugar. The plan was scuttled when the 2008 recession hit and the state budget shrunk.