Oil company seeks to explore near troubled Apalachicola Bay

By Daniel Cusick | 05/28/2024 01:48 PM EDT

Florida conservationists are sounding alarms about oil exploration threatening the aleady imperiled Panhandle watershed.

Two men tong oysters in the shallow waters of Apalachicola Bay.

Two men in 2015 tong oysters in the shallow waters of Apalachicola Bay near Eastpoint, Florida. There is currently a moratorium on harvesting wild oysters in the bay, following a collapse of the fishery. Mark Wallheiser/AP

Apalachicola, Florida, is known for oysters, not oil.

Yet for the second time in six years, an oil company wants to sink an exploratory well into the Apalachicola River floodplain about 30 miles north of the small shellfishing community and its imperiled estuary, Apalachicola Bay.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection last month said it intends to approve a permit application from Clearwater Land and Minerals of Shreveport, Louisiana, to sink a 14,000-foot well at the upland site in rural Calhoun County. A previous permit for the same site was issued to Cholla Petroleum in 2019, but the company never drilled and its permit expired in 2021, according to Brian Miller, an agency spokesperson.


If finalized, the Clearwater permit would allow exploratory drilling through April 25, 2025. A final decision is pending, according to an agency notice of intent.