Protect Florida Panthers from Big Oil
“As a professional nature photographer, I have witnessed firsthand the leading cause of panther deaths in Florida—being struck by vehicles (72%). Not long ago, I had the heartbreaking experience of coming upon a Florida panther kitten that had been killed by a car. My very first instinct was to reach out and pat her lifeless body which was left strewn across the center line of the road. As I did that, I came to realize that her mother was calling out to her from some brush not far away. I knew then that I needed to do more than just photograph Florida’s wildlife if I wanted it to endure. I knew I needed to take action to protect Florida panthers and protecting them from Big Oil and their machinery is part of that.
“Florida panthers number barely over 100 in the wild and can’t afford unnecessary, new threats. Yet, the state of Florida has issued a permit for the construction of a new oil and gas waste disposal well in prime habitat for the endangered Florida panther. This well would be placed less than a mile from the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, and would bring with it hundreds of truck trips that could harass or kill endangered panthers, pushing panthers closer to the brink of extinction. Just this year, 12 panthers have been killed in Florida putting the state on path to exceed the average of 17 panthers killed annually by vehicles.
“Not only would this well increase vehicle traffic, it could potentially contaminate the ground and water Florida panthers rely on.The waste that will be injected into this well could be very toxic. No one knows exactly what is in the waste because Congress exempted oil companies from a federal hazardous waste law back in the 1980s. We should not entertain any plan that might bring new toxic threats to these already-beleaguered cats.
“Additionally, The Texas company that is applying to drill this well is already in hot water over another well in the state of Florida. It has been fined $25,000 for acting outside the scope of the permitted activity at the well site. In short, they’ve already been accused of breaking the law once–why give them another chance while putting highly-endangered panthers at risk?
“Please urge the EPA to block the construction of this well and prevent further threats to Florida panthers, their habitat and clean water resources needed by both humans and wildlife.”