The Texas company running a controversial oil drilling operation at the edge of Florida panther habitat announced Tuesday it would shut down its remaining well — just as Florida environmental regulators were announcing they would sue to force its shutdown.
Officials of the Dan A. Hughes Co. had already notified the state Department of Environmental Protection that they planned to shut down their last well in Collier County, company spokesman David Blackmon said, which makes the DEP's lawsuit "an egregious abuse of the public's trust and a willful denial of due process."
Hughes sparked anger among its neighbors when it first sought a permit for drilling in the Golden Gate Estates area, then drew a $25,000 fine from the DEP for violating the permit.
Hughes' permit allowed it to inject acid deep underground to fracture the limestone, a process similar to hydraulic fracking. However the company also injected a chemical mix that kept the rocks propped open, which was not allowed by the permit and had never been done in Florida. DEP officials ordered groundwater monitoring to see if any pollution had spread, although so far the results have been negative.
Last week Hughes said it would end its work toward drilling any other wells in Florida panther habitat, except for the one well that was already producing. But Tuesday's announcement signals an end to that too.