Dan A. Hughes: Strained Relationship With DEP Also To Blame For Well Closures

Jul 17, 2014

DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard meets with angry residents following a fracking-like incident in Collier County.
Credit Ashley Lopez / WGCU

Florida is now in a legal fight with an oil company. State regulators said the company did not meet a set of demands following a penalty for using an unauthorized drilling method. But, company officials say they have not broken any laws.

Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Dan A. Hughes Company have taken their fight to a courtroom. DEP filed a lawsuit aimed at seeking more financial damages and shuttering an already closed down oil well near Lake Trafford in Immokalee.

Dan A. Hughes has effectively shut down most of its current and future operations in Florida. Initially, the company claimed shutting down the embattled Collier-Hogan well was an operational decision. However, spokesman David Blackmon said the breakdown in communication with DEP is also to blame.

“You know, anytime you have a regulator that is obviously focused on trying to drive a company out of a given area—as the DEP has been with the Dan A. Hughes company-- it increases your cost,” Blackmon said. “At the same time the production from this well had been diminishing so the company had made a decision. You never want to operate a well at a loss.”

Blackmon said the company has not broken any state laws or regulations—even when it moved forward with an extraction method similar to fracking the state had not approved.

DEP spokeswoman Tiffany Cowie says that’s not true, though.

“We disagree with that assertion,” Cowie said. “We certainly believe that they have broken the law and that’s why we are filing this lawsuit.”

DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard demanded the company answer more questions about what happened at the oil site, as well as arrange meetings with the public. However, DEP said the company didn’t meet their deadline. The lawsuit will go before a Collier County circuit court judge. Cowie said the DEP is not ruling out any action in holding Dan A. Hughes accountable.