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Collier Commissioners Move Forward With Legal Challenge Over Drilling Incident Near Lake Trafford

Ashley Lopez

Collier County Commissioners decided Tuesday to move forward with their legal challenge against state regulators. Commissioners have said the state is not properly enforcing laws following a fracking-like incident near Lake Trafford.

Collier Commissioners were supposed to discuss whether or not they should reconsider their decision to challenge the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in court. Instead, they decided they will challenge the state agency.

Residents and local officials are up in arms with what they consider to be lax penalties against the Dan A. Hughes Company. The Texas-based oil company used an unauthorized method to extract oil from a well South of Lake Trafford. Commissioner Fred Coyle said he and the other commissioners have not been able to convince DEP officials to have a public discussion about this.

“The DEP should be here talking to us about their lax enforcement of the current permit and they are not,” he said. “The only way we can get them here is to do so legally.”

DEP officials have been asking commissioners not to move forward with their challenge because the state said it could stop current penalties against Dan A. Hughes from being carried out until the legal issue is over.

Following news that commissioners are still filing a legal challenge, the DEP sent out a press release saying Collier County is “jeopardizing the department’s enforcement action against the company.” The release also said the county’s decision is based on incorrect and incomplete information. Commission Vice Chairman Tim Nance said the statement is outrageous.

“This makes me madder than anything to have a state agency to treat me, who is trying to reach out to you and deal with our county—this is my home too,” he said. “This really messes me up.”

DEP officials said they will continue to hold out invitations to commissioners but only for private discussions in Tallahassee aimed at clearing up any confusion over what happened at the well.

Ashley Lopez is a reporter forWGCUNews. A native of Miami, she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a journalism degree.
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