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Calhoun Commissioners Push Back Against Environmentalists As Final Permitting Nears For Oil Wells

The Texas-based company Cholla Petroleum is seeking permission from Florida's environmental agency to drill six exploratory wells in Calhoun County.
Cholla Petroleum
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Calhoun County Commissioners say if exploratory wells planned for the area produce oil, it could be a boon for the rural county. Calhoun is supportive of Cholla Petroleum’s exploratory wells despite pushback from environmentalists.

 The permits have been in the works for more than a year, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection could give the Texas-based company final approval to drill the exploratory wells in the coming days. Environmentalists worry drilling could impact the region’s drinking water supply and ecosystem. 

“People that are living below the proposed sites, those are the calls we’re getting, those are the emails we’re getting. People [are] asking what’s going on with permitting," says Apalachicola Riverkeeper Gerogia Ackerman. The organization is one of many that has placed its concerns on file with DEP. 

A separate group of activists is meeting with DEP Tuesday morning as part of a last ditch effort to stop the wells.  All are planned for Calhoun County, and its commission says its position of support for Cholla Petroleum and the planned exploratory wells has not changed. 

“We’ve lost all our timber, we have no four-lane highway, we have no railroad, we have no coastline and all our manufacturing is gone," says Calhoun Commission Vice Chairman Gene Bailey. "So this would be a revenue source to assist the people of the county and might lead to more jobs and all. So basically, it’s a money item.”

Bailey says the county needs healthcare, and points to a $21 million estimate to rebuild its hospital which was damaged during 2018's Hurricane Michael. Schools and roads are also in need of repair.

The exploratory wells would be located about 15 miles South of Blountstown on private land in the Dead Lakes, Chipola and Apalachicola River floodplain.