Prospectors from Texas oil company Dan A. Hughes won't be drilling throughout the Big Cypress Swamp watershed anytime soon. That means (1) diminished revenues for Old Florida plutocrats Barron Collier, (2) one fewer threat to the Florida Panther and other species, and (3) one fewer worry for Collier County residents concerned about toxic contamination of the environment.
The Texans had leased mineral rights on 115,000 acres of land from Collier Resources over the past few years, including portions of the Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge, Picayune Strand State Forest, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, and the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Some wells adjoined residential neighborhoods in Naples.
Regulators busted the drillers for unauthorized fracking at a Collier County well last December (which neither the state nor the company disclosed at public hearings this year), and when the news broke this spring, it scandalized an already aroused citizenry and provoked official local resistance. Unable or unwilling to play well with others (the company stiffed the efforts of state officials to smooth things over), the drillers chose to skedaddle.
The citizens' victory note sounded in the form of a Hughes announcement Friday that the company had "assessed [its] capital budget and [its] prospects in other parts of the country and decided to allocate [its] resources to other project areas." That same day, in a letter to the Collier County Board of Commissioners, Collier Resources announced that the Hughes leases had been terminated.
One exception remains: the Hughes drilling operation at the Collier-Hogan site, where last winter's acid fracking occurred. That project faces a legal challenge from the Collier Commission, which has asked that its permit be revoked, as well as a warning from Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard, who has given the drillers until Tuesday to meet a set of demands regarding operations and transparency.
We'll soon see if Vinyard can walk the walk. In the meantime, Collier County's environmental activists are in a mood to party.
Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers South Florida news and culture. Got feedback or a tip? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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