Collier County Commissioners Thwart Enforcement Action Against Dan A. Hughes Oil

June 10, 2014

 Today, the Collier County Commission made the unfortunate decision to move forward with challenging DEP’s Consent Order with the Dan A. Hughes Company, L.P., jeopardizing the department’s enforcement action against the company.

On May 28, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection traveled to Naples to meet individually with several Collier County commissioners to discuss the Commission’s May 13, 2014, vote to challenge the Consent Order entered into between the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Dan A. Hughes, L.P., and to answer any questions they may have.

The Commission’s decision to challenge the Consent Order is based on incorrect and incomplete information. Should the County choose to follow through with its challenge, this would cause the Consent Order to be suspended for the duration of the judicial review, effectively removing any obligations on Hughes contained in the Consent Order until the conclusion of litigation. Most importantly, it would remove the mechanism currently in place for DEP to require Hughes to perform the additional groundwater monitoring and investigations, depriving the public of the important information the study will yield, including discussion of any impacts that may have occurred to groundwater resources. Additionally, it must be recognized that it is the Consent Order, not the permit itself, that is legally challengeable at this time. Should the County decide to continue with its challenge and prevail, the Consent Order will be vacated, but the permit will remain in place.

When DEP became aware the workover procedure by the company had commenced without approval, in December 2013 a Cease and Desist Order was immediately issued and the department pursued formal enforcement. The department’s priority was first and foremost ensuring no environmental impacts to the groundwater resources in Collier County had occurred. DEP worked diligently for more than three months to finalize and secure a legally enforceable instrument that not only assessed the maximum civil penalties allowable under law, but also compelled the company to pay a third-party independent expert to perform the groundwater monitoring and investigations needed to ensure no harm to groundwater resources had resulted from the company’s workover operations.

The department continues to urge the Commission to reconsider its decision. Otherwise, DEP cannot move forward with Hughes to address its concerns about the procedure conducted at the Hogan well. To that end, our invitation remains open to meet with commissioners individually in Collier County to address any additional questions or comments they may have.

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