Gusher of opposition to Apalachicola oil drilling proposal
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Crude oil spill on sand beach texture after accident.
'Given the investment, the history, and how the region and its people have already suffered, this type of drilling is way too risky.'

The ironically named Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has thrown its preliminary support behind a proposal to begin exploratory, or “wildcat,” oil drilling in the environmentally fragile Apalachicola River Basin. But now, anger from lawmakers, oyster farmers and the public is spewing from the surface.

In fact, more than 1,050 objection letters have already been aimed at DEP. The total number of private citizen comments in support of oil drilling? One.

This appears to be more than triple the public response seen for all exploratory drilling permits combined in the state database, which dates back eight years.

“The opposition from elected officials and citizens gives me hope,” said Monte Akin, a Marine Corps veteran and oyster farmer in Apalachicola’s 4 Mile. “This is about our livelihoods and protecting the ecosystem where our oysters grow. Apalachicola Bay has come a long way and DEP’s actions undermine our progress.”

DEP recently announced a draft “notice of intent” signaling that the agency is likely to support a drilling permit for Clearwater Land & Minerals, a Louisiana-based company. The company wants to conduct destructive exploratory drilling in the Panhandle, in Calhoun County, between the Apalachicola and Chipola rivers. DEP’s determination can still be reversed or challenged in court.

The announcement has been met with bipartisan opposition with Republican Sen. Corey Simon providing particularly strong condemnation, calling the decision “unconscionable.” Simon is locked in a tough race to protect the GOP’s senate supermajority.

The massive response puts DEP in an interesting situation. Given that the Apalachicola River is legally protected as an “Outstanding Florida Water,” any project impacting it must be “clearly in the public interest,” according to state statute.

“I’d like them to explain how they think this is in the public interest,” said Gil Damon, Director of the Downriver Project, a nonprofit that supports fishing and aquaculture along the Forgotten Coast. “They’ve got us staring down the barrel of a disaster for the oyster economy, they’re putting Port St. Joe’s drinking water at risk, the legislators are opposed, and there’s literally 1,000-to-1 opposition from private citizens. It doesn’t make sense.”

DEP’s support for the proposal may also conflict with successful efforts by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the local legislative delegation to support Apalachicola Bay. Just last year DeSantis allocated $17 million to restore the storied, yet struggling, “Oyster Capital of the World.” Rep. Jason Shoaf has led the way to securing funding for the bay.

Filmmaker Chucha Barber, who produced the internationally acclaimed documentary “Unfiltered: The Truth About Oysters” about the plight of Apalachicola Bay’s wild oyster industry, said the drilling decision could be the death knell for oysters and the 3,000 species of marine life that rely on oyster reefs as safe-space for their young.

“Research efforts are ongoing to determine if Apalachicola Bay can reopen to wild oyster harvesting,” Barber said. “Given the investment, the history, and how the region and its people have already suffered, this type of drilling is way too risky. One mistake could make Apalachicola a different kind of landmark for the phrase ‘Florida’s Forgotten Coast.’”

Locals are calling on the governor to halt the project or for DEP to withdraw it voluntarily.

“I’m hoping Governor DeSantis will step in,” said Monte, the oyster farmer. “He’s worked hard for us, and shellfish farmers need him now more than ever. Nobody thinks this is a good idea — there has to be a way to stop it.”

DEP’s final decision could come soon, unless outside forces intervene.

Interested citizens can write in opposition using the instructions provided here.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


  • Linwood Wright

    May 17, 2024 at 9:22 am

    It’s a deep red county. If they want to vote for a environmental and economic disaster in their own backyard i’m not going to stop them.
    They can drink the oil on the beach if they can’t afford groceries one the tourism and seafood industry up there is destroyed.

  • tom palmer

    May 17, 2024 at 10:42 am

    The idea of wildcatting in a state that has such minuscule oil production in the first place is a watershed as important as this one defies logic.

  • Michael K

    May 17, 2024 at 4:19 pm

    Funny how the GOP governor is all in for oil… until the oil is in their own backyard. Meanwhile, abundant solar in the sunshine state is ignored and despised. Just follow the money.

    • Impeach Biden

      May 17, 2024 at 10:32 pm

      To be fair, the Governor is a corrupt moron.

      The only ones dumber are his supporters.

Comments are closed.


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