By Coastal Breeze News Staff
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently finalized a stipulated agreement with Collier County, clearing the way for the county to join DEP in its lawsuit against the Dan A. Hughes Co., a Beeville, TX-based oil and gas company.
Filed in July, the lawsuit requests the court’s enforcement of the requirements under a consent order between DEP and the Dan A. Hughes Co. and seeks monetary penalties in excess of $100,000 as a result of the company violating the terms of the consent order and other regulations. The consent order was issued in April citing the Dan A. Hughes Co.’s unauthorized activities at the Collier–Hogan well south of Lake Trafford in Collier County.
“We applaud the county’s collaborative approach and are committed to working jointly with them in holding the Dan A. Hughes Co. accountable,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “I have a deep appreciation for the critical role local government plays in protecting the health, safety and welfare of Florida’s residents and the environment.”
This is just the latest action in an environmental debate that dates back to December 2012, when the Dan A. Hughes Co. received a drilling permit for the Collier-Hogan well from the state of Florida. An operating permit for the well was subsequently issued in August 2013. On Dec. 23, 2013, DEP received a well completion procedure notice, also known as a workover notice, from the Dan A. Hughes Co. This request was for work to be conducted for the Collier-Hogan well.
The department had concerns about the workover notice, which proposed an enhanced extraction procedure that had not previously been used in Florida. The company proposed to inject a dissolving solution at sufficient pressure to achieve some openings in the oil bearing rock formation that would be propped open with sand in pursuit of enhancing oil production. DEP requested Dan A. Hughes Co. not move forward with the workover procedure until additional review could be performed.
However, on Dec. 31, 2013, the department discovered the workover procedure had commenced without its approval. Because of the actions of Dan A. Hughes Co., the department was not afforded the opportunity to complete its review of the proposed procedure before operations began. As a result, a Cease and Desist Order was issued and the department immediately pursued formal enforcement.
After issuing the consent order in April, DEP pulled the Dan A. Hughes Co.’s operating permits in July, and followed that action by filing a law suit in Collier County. In August, officials with the Dan A. Hughes Co. filed four legal documents to “protect its rights and reputation” and requested its operating permits be reinstated in Collier County. A month later, Dan A. Hughes himself appeared before the Board of Collier County Commissioners to defend his firm’s environmental record.
According to DEP and its latest agreement with Collier County, the department already has begun work at its own expense on numerous additional protective measures to ensure county residents are safe. Efforts currently underway include:
- DEP has drilled shallow groundwater monitoring wells near the Collier-Hogan site and continues to monitor them for contamination.
- DEP has hired a team of independent third-party experts approved by the county and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida – ALL Consulting of Tulsa, Oklahoma – who have begun a full assessment of the activities that took place at the Collier-Hogan well.
- DEP has initiated a thorough investigation of the flowback material produced at the Collier-Hogan well to ensure the material was treated and disposed of properly.
- At the end of this month, DEP will begin work to install a deep groundwater monitoring well to the base of the underground source of drinking water (approximately 1,850 feet).
“(DEP) will not wait for the outcome of (the) litigation to seek out and eliminate any threats to groundwater resources,” Vineyard noted. “The department will also undertake numerous additional protective measures at our own expense in the coming months. As requested by the Commission, I would like to formally commit in writing to the additional action items the Department will be taking to address the county’s concerns, pertaining both to the Collier-Hogan well and legislative and regulatory proposals.”