Not so fast. That's the message to environmentalists who had been celebrating the departure from Florida of the Dan A. Hughes Co., Texas oil prospectors whose unauthorized drilling in the Big Cypress Swamp watershed last year put them upside-down with homeowners, elected officials, and, ultimately, state regulators, who yanked the company's permit last Friday and sued it for damages.
As reported yesterday by the Naples Daily News, the Texans have decided to stand their ground and drill baby drill, opting to countersue the state Department of Environmental Protection rather than cut their losses and vamoose.
The Texans had leased 115,000 acres of mineral rights from land baron Collier Resources over the past few years, including portions of the Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge, the Big Cypress National Preserve, and the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Some wells adjoined residential neighborhoods in Naples.
Regulators busted the drillers for acid 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 snowballed into the permit revocation.
According to yesterday's Naples Daily News the company has determined to take legal action to remain at the Collier-Hogan well site, where last winter's acid fracking occurred, and possibly resume drilling. Hughes has 21 days to respond to the revocation.
In another report, on Fort Myers CBS affiliate WINK-TV, company reps played the victim card, asserting that state officials were fully aware of Hughes' drilling activity all along, that it was misrepresented and the company unfairly targeted:
"We've heard it called fracking like, acid fracking, matrix fracking," said [Hughes employee Kristin] Kremers. "We've heard it called all kinds of different things. The truth is we've tried to tell everyone what we've done, we acidized. That has been done hundreds, thousands of times in the state of Florida. We acidized, then we followed it with sand."
The company claims the DEP was onsite during the acidization, that it was the second time the company acidized at the well.
"They have made us look like criminals," said Kremers.
"In terms of how much oil is actually down there," Kremers noted, "the reserve potential is huge. Absolutely huge."
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 Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.
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