Collier oil drilling debate continues

Commissioners To File Petition Against Florida DEP

CREATED Jun 10, 2014

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NAPLES, Fla. - More tug-of-war concerning oil drilling in Collier County. County commissioners decided to proceed with a legal challenge against the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The petition is in protest over a settlement the DEP made with the Dan A. Hughes Company over unauthorized drilling near the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.

"We are unanimous in our objection to the permit, and the violations of the Hughes drilling company," said District 4 Commissioner Fred Coyle.

The Texas-based oil company was fine $25,000 by the DEP, and ordered to perform testing of the groundwater to see if it had been contaminated by activity at the well.

"It is about trying to get adequate enforcement against someone who undertook an unauthorized activity in Collier County that put our drinking water at risk," said Jennifer Hecker, Director of Natural Resource Policy at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. She hopes the commission's decision will send a message.

"We feel this was necessary to preserve and protect public health and safety, and the county was right to move forward with this legal action," she said. But the DEP wasted little time responding to the county's decision, stating that the commission's decision is based on "incorrect and incomplete information."

The agency released a statement reading, in part: "It would remove the mechanism currently in place for DEP to require Hughes to perform the additional groundwater monitoring and investigations."

Hecker feels the county should have more say in what goes on in its own backyard. "When they settled this matter without Collier County's involvement, they really prevented Collier County from having a meaningful role in deciding what the appropriate remedies would be for this violation that occurred in Collier County," she said. The secretary of the DEP had reportedly told commissioners that they could come to Tallahassee to discuss the matter, but that offer was declined. The commission wants the information presented in a public forum.