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Collier Commissioners Drop Lawsuit Against State Environmental Agency

Ashley Lopez

Collier officials voted to drop their lawsuit against the state’s environmental agency Tuesday. County commissioners said they are hoping instead to become partners with the state as the agency continues its legal battle with a Texas-based oil company.

State Environmental Protection Chief Herschel Vinyard appeared before Collier commissioners to urge county officials to partner with his agency as the state drafts new oil drilling rules.

“I would appreciate and welcome your input in partnership in what’s going on in the 2015 legislative session,” Vinyard said.

Months ago, county officials sued the state’s department of environment protection (DEP). Commissioners said the state dragged its heels in dealing with the Texas-based Dan A. Hughes Company. The oil company proceeded with an oil extraction method similar to fracking state officials had not approved.

"We need to be partnerships with the agency, not fighting the agency." --Tom Henning, Collier County Commission Chair.

Since that legal challenge, DEP filed its own lawsuit. This time the state sued Dan A. Hughes. DEP also revoked the company’s drilling permits.  Collier County Commission Chair Tom Henning said DEP’s action is a sign the agency is serious about protecting Southwest Florida’s natural resources.

“We need to be partnerships with the agency, not fighting the agency,” he said “Now, they are proving that they have our best interests at heart by going after Dan A. Hughes, which is exactly what we wanted.”

Commissioners unanimously voted to drop their lawsuit against DEP. They also entertained the idea of joining the state’s lawsuit against Dan A. Hughes. They tabled a vote on that matter until their next meeting.

Vinyard told commissioners his agency is also working to get better at dealing with oil drilling permits in the state moving forward.

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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