Saturday, May 3, 2014

After Activists Outrage, DEP Issues Halt to New Oil Drilling in Collier County

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has ordered the Dan A. Hughes Company to cease all new drilling operations in Southwest Florida, as of Friday, May 2nd.  The news comes a day after Senator Bill Nelson issued a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency calling for a federal investigation of the Hughes Company.  
In light of the Dan A. Hughes Company’s egregious violations at the Collier-Hogan well, next to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Collier County, all pending permits are currently on hold until an investigation can be completed.  On December 23, 2013, the DEP discovered that the Hughes Company had been using extreme drilling techniques consistent with "fracking." On April 18, the DEP demanded that all work at the Hogan Island well be stopped, and fined the company $25,000. 
In a statement released Friday, the DEP wrote: “In December, DEP caught the Dan A. Hughes Co. conducting unauthorized activities at the Collier-Hogan well south of Lake Trafford in Collier County. The department immediately took action by issuing a cease and desist order and ultimately assessed the maximum civil penalties allowable under Florida law." 
Numerous environmental organizations have been fighting the Hughes Company's permits for exploratory wells in Southwest Florida, especially for the well that would be located only 1,000 feet from family homes in Golden Gate Estates, and less than one mile from the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. 
Alexis Meyer, Sierra Club’s Florida Panther Campaign representative said, "these recent events have shown that this company cannot be expected to uphold best management practices for the environment or Florida residents. The threat to Florida's environment is only expounded when companies like Hughes exploit laws set in place to protect our fragile ecosystems." 
Karen Dwyer with the Stonecrab Alliance said, “the DEP and EPA need to permanently shut down Dan A. Hughes because no amount of regulation will make drilling safe if the company won’t obey the regulations; we now have documented evidence of the company’s criminal wrongdoing and reckless disregard for our watershed and Everglades.”   
Issues stemming from these drilling permits include the destruction of Florida panther primary habitat, contamination of aquifers and drinking water, and threats to public safety. 
"This is just one more step in the right direction of shutting down these polluters and exploiters," said Alexis Meyer.