Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Contact: Karen Dwyer, Ph.D. 

If it’s legal, it shouldn’t be.  Residents draw the line against backyard oil drilling near Florida Panther National Refuge and protected wetlands and call on Governor Rick Scott to tell the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to deny the permit.

NAPLES, FL—Saturday, August 31, citizens will turn up the heat in a march to Governor Rick Scott’s home to stop the expansion of oil drilling in South Florida.  Collier Resources owns 800,000 acres of mineral rights and is a major player in the resurgence of Florida oil drilling.  Collier recently leased 115,000 acres for oil exploration to Dan A. Hughes, who early in May, applied for state permits to set up an industrial drilling operation in Golden Gate Estates.  The proposed site is only 1000 feet from family homes and adjacent to the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge and Western Everglades.  Although it’s legal, it shouldn’t be.  New oil drilling will contribute to environmentally damaging climate change as well as endanger residents, water, wetlands, and wildlife.

Citizens are calling on Collier to live up to its century-old reputation as “stewards of the land” and step back from new oil drilling.  Collier claims drilling can be done in an “environmentally sensitive fashion,” but nothing is environmentally friendly about placing families in an emergency evacuation zone, next to a hazardous, unsightly, large-scale industrial drill site, with an injection well, 5-acre cement pad, and 145’ oil rig.[1] 

Moreover the drill site and entire lease area is one of the most ecologically sensitive areas of the nation.  It is surrounded—east, south, west, and north—by a vast array of wetlands.[2]  These public lands, acquired at great cost, protect native and often rare plants and animals as well as safeguard vital watersheds.  Consider the Everglades National Park, directly downstream.  Congress authorized a 30-year Everglades Restoration Plan.  Why allow oil drilling to endanger that $10 billion dollar project dedicated solely to restoring the South Florida ecosystem? 

Others fear the federally endangered Florida panther (approximately 100 remaining) won’t survive further habitat loss.  The Western Everglades south of the Caloosahatchee River is the only remaining home for this beleaguered species that struggles to survive on 5% of its former range.  The drill site gets extensive use from panthers since it lies adjacent to the Panther Refuge.[3]  No amount of mitigation can offset the negative impact of losing more panther habitat.  Once the Florida panther is extinct, we can’t call it back.

Participants want to save South Florida from another Deep Water Horizon—with its long chain of documented misjudgments, operational failings, and oversight mistakes.  They want to protect the aquifers that supply South Florida with its drinking water and save the watersheds that sustain wetlands.  “It’s about our water,” they say.  Accidents happen.  And over time, pipes leak.  And injected chemicals migrate.[4]  One accident could ruin aquifers and wetlands for generations to come.  The risks are too great and benefits, too small.[5]  Oil drilling is not in the public interest.

Governor Scott’s support of the oil industry[6] has fueled a resurgence of oil drilling in Naples, his hometown.  Citizens will protest by land and by sea, marching and paddling from the Naples Pier to the Governor’s beachfront home.  Banners and flags will spell out concerns:  Outlaw Oil Wells Next to Homes; Oil Drilling Isn’t Safe; Don’t Mess with Everglades Oil; Save Our Stonecrabs; Oil, Not Worth a Panther’s Whisker, Fossil Fuel is so Dinosaur, Go Solar; Collier Oil Goes Overseas; It’s About Our Water.  In the Governor’s backyard, we’ll build an oil rig to make visible why residents don’t want backyard oil drilling.  Since the DEP answers to Governor Scott, we’re calling on him to tell the state to deny the permit.  Closing with a candlelight vigil, we’ll invite everyone, from legislators to land barons, to partner with us in preserving South Florida.[7]

WHAT:  March to Governor Rick Scott’s Home to Stop Expansion of Oil Drilling in South Florida
WHO:  Concerned residents and citizens, Preserve Our Paradise, Stonecrab Alliance
WHERE: Meet on beach at Naples Fishing Pier, 25th 12th Ave. S., Naples, FL  34012
 March on beach to 3150 Gordon Drive in Old Naples, Gulf of Mexico beachfront
WHEN: Saturday, August 31, 2013, 7:00-9:00PM
***VISUALS: Signs/New Banners/Flags/Armbands/Kayaks/Bamboo Oil Well/Red Tag/Candles ***

 [1] Other concerns highlighted in previous events, include public safety, emergency evacuation, fire hazards, oil and toxic brine spills, heavy traffic danger to school children, risk to water levels of adjacent wetlands, industrial noise, and declining property values.

[2] The Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge lies to the east, the Belle Meade Tracts to the west, the Picayune Strand State Forest to the south, and the Fakahatchee Strand State Park to the southeast.  The Camp Keais Strand also connects the area to the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW Lands) and the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary to the north.  See, Matthew Schwartz, South Florida Wildlands Association Public Comments to DEP, June 30, 2013.

[3] Although the application states, “The Well location does not contain habitat for federal or state listed wildlife species. . . . No listed species have been observed on-site”—this is incorrect. A report by the Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI) documents an actual panther observation inside the proposed drill site and telemetry charts of collared panthers provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) show a high level of panther activity.  This alone, should trigger consultations from the agencies responsible for protecting endangered species: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the FWC.  The panther is also an “umbrella species,” and protection of the panther’s habitat protects numerous state and federally listed plants and animals. See, Schwartz.  Also, Jaime Duran, who lives 1000 feet from the proposed drill site, reports that the gentleman that leases the proposed drill site to raise cattle said he loses a number of calves to panthers every year.  He accepts this as part of the risk of doing business in panther habitat. 

[4] See, Abrahm Lustgarten, “Injection Wells: the Poison Beneath Us,” ProPublica, June 21, 2012.

[5] New oil production in Florida is “likely to amount to a drop in the barrel compared to black gold booms that the controversial practice of ‘fracking’ has generated in once obscure sites in Texas, North Dakota and other states,” reports Curtis Morgan (Oil Industry Eyes South Florida Again, Sat. May 12, 2013).  Also, in the first informational meeting with the public at IFAS, Hank Kremer with Hughes Oil said that his company was a small Texas outfit and it would bring no jobs to the area and the oil would be transported in trucks to Ft. Lauderdale for overseas exportation.  

[6] In May, Governor Scott’s veto of H.B. 4001 caused the biofuel startup Algenol to suspend plans to build commercial scale facilities in Florida.  The same month, Scott vetoed the $7.5 million FGCU Innovative Hub/Renewable Energy Institute, foregoing another opportunity to jumpstart the state’s economy and support renewable energy rather than old technologies like oil and gas drilling. See also, Amanda Peterson Beadle, “Florida Gov. Rick Scott Supports Oil Drilling in the Everglades,” Climate Progress, Sept. 7, 2011.

[7] Please see http://www.facebook.com/preserveourparadise to take action.  The DEP has received over 3500 signatures on a petition, and over 600 public comments; the public comment period is still open and the DEP has asked Hughes Oil to run a sonic log and take water samples.  A DEP decision could be made by September; residents will be notified at a Town Hall Meeting. Residents have called on federal, state, and local officials to urge the DEP to deny the permit.  Senator Dwight Bullard sent an official letter requesting the DEP deny the permit. 


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