Residents of Southwest Florida protest plans to drill for oil near the Everglades.
What a lot of people don't know – not even in Florida – is that there's already oil drilling in the greater Everglades.
About 25 miles from the proposed wells, around seven or eight wells pump day and night in the heart of the Big Cypress National Preserve, a wetlands that is part of the greater Everglades ecosystem. The area isn't open to the public, but the National Park Service gave America Tonight a special tour.
"I think they've done a good job over the years," said Don Hargrove, who oversees oil and gas operations here. "Any impact on the surface, any pad that has been constructed, you can consider this as an impact. However, they are used temporarily, they're not forever. They're removed and restored at some point."
America Tonight visited an area of Big Cypress National Preserve, which was the site of oil drilling less than 40 years ago. All the equipment had been removed, and the site turned back to nature – proof to some that oil drilling can be done in an environmentally responsible manner.
Asked whether the ecosystem could handle dozens of more operations, Hargrove responded: "It depends on the operator and how responsible they are. It really does."
There's no telling if the company drilling the new wells would be equally responsible, and there have been reports of leaks at some injection sites across the country. But here, the park service regularly tests the water and said it's never seen any evidence of contamination. At worst, Hargrove said these wells are a short-term eyesore.