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Evers’ Blackwater Backyard

February 20, 2012

A Northwest Florida senator is working to bring oil drilling close to home—his home.

As Senator Greg Evers’ bill encouraging drilling on public lands—specifically, in Blackwater River State Forest—heads to the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee tomorrow morning, the IN has learned that the senator owns property in Blackwater.

“Yes I do, I was born and raised on Blackwater State Forest.” Evers said. “Through the course of my life I have purchased some land on Blackwater.”

The Blackwater River State Forest has pockets of privately owned land. Evers ballparked his property holdings, estimating that he had around four parcels ranging between 25 to 75 acres a piece.

Evers’ bill, along with a twin bill from Rep. Clay Ford from Pensacola in the state house, aim to foster public-private partnerships with oil companies. While initially pertaining to all state land, the bills have been curtailed to only apply to Blackwater River State Forest.

The bills—S.B. 1158 and H.B. 695—would weaken environmental reviews, while assuring oil companies they would have first right of refusal on land they had invested the seismic work into. Currently, such land becomes available to the highest bidder, regardless of previous exploration.

Currently, Fairways Exploration and Production, LLC, is exploring the Conecuh National Forest across the state line in Alabama. Evers would like them to come on in to Florida, into Blackwater.

While a discovery of oil on nearby forest land in Blackwater might make plunging a well on his own land a much more realistic and attractive option, Senator Evers said the passage of his bill would not “enhace” his property holdings “one iota.” His argument is that he already has the right to drill on his property and that wouldn’t change with the proposed bills.

“I could already do that,” Evers said. “If an oil company called me and said, ‘Greg, I understand you’ve got 75 acres of land and we want to do seismic work on it’—I could already do that.”

Ford’s bill has a couple more committee stops before heading before the full house for a vote. Evers’ bill goes before the senate’s Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee tomorrow at 9:15 a.m.

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