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BONITA SPRINGS PROPOSED FRACKING BAN DRAWING FIRE — CITIZENS GEAR UP AND UNITE TO DEFEND IT
City doesn’t want to take the chance that their water resources might become polluted.
BONITA SPRINGS—Wednesday, July 15, 9 a.m. at City Hall citizens, activists, and environmentalists will wear red in visible support of the Bonita Springs City Council’s proposed ordinance that would prohibit the use of oil well stimulation techniques, including “fracking” within city limits. The ban, approved at a first reading July 1 in a Bonita Springs City Council 6-0 vote, with a second and final hearing July 15, is already drawing fire.
Collier Resources threatens to sue the City if they adopt the ordinance. The Colliers—who own thousands of acres of mineral rights in Bonita Springs and 800,000 acres in Florida—called the ban flawed and warned that the city would be opening itself to lawsuits if adopted: “this constitutionally flawed ordinance . . . will expose the city to numerous lawsuits and class actions, from Collier Resources and others,” threatened company attorney Ronald L. Weaver.
With an estimated net worth of $2.3 billion, the Colliers are ranked the 119th wealthiest family in the U.S. and among the country’s largest landowners, according to Forbes.
“We’re deeply offended that the Colliers would threaten Bonita with a lawsuit,” says John Dwyer, cofounder of the Stonecrab Alliance. “It’s unneighborly. We’ve read the seven-page letter the Colliers’ attorney sent to Mayor Ben Nelson and applaud the City’s resolve to move forward with a ban despite threats.”
Ralf Brooks, an attorney hired by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, points out that no valid Bert Harris Act claim can be made by the Colliers since no oil and gas has been found in Bonita Springs and hence no actual mineral rights exist to protect. Bonita’s oil reserves are as yet undiscovered and untapped and hence speculative and the Bert Harris Act only deals with non-speculative real property.
Regarding the “Take,” Jennifer Hecker, Director of Natural Resource Policy for the Conservancy, asserts that this ordinance would not prohibit Collier Resources from taking or extracting oil and gas; Collier Resources could still use proven conventional oil drilling just not well stimulation treatments that pose a threat to our water resources, like hydraulic fracturing, acid fracking, and acidizing. These are usually three-day procedures and non-essential, meaning oil can be extracted without these extreme extraction techniques.
Jaime Duran, a resident who helped stop the Golden Gate well from going in only 1000 feet from his home in nearby Naples, applauds the Bonita City Council for securing a local amendment to protect their community against irresponsible fracking and fracking-like activities that could contaminate Florida’s water resources. He hopes the “Collier County Commission will imitate Bonita’s good example.”
Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, Policy Director of Our Santa Fe River and President of Save Our Suwannee, says that the “Council’s efforts are particularly timely and well-advised since in the 2015 legislative session, Senate Bill 1468 would have expressly preempted local municipalities home rule right to protect themselves with bans, well siting, and water use ordinances. So now is the perfect time for local bans.”
Kim Ross of Floridians Against Fracking, a coalition of groups working to ban fracking at the state and local level, and Jorge Aguilar, Southern Region Director for Food and Water Watch, agree. They’re keeping close track of fracking resolutions that have been adopted in Florida and across the nation, respectively.
“What’s makes the Bonita ban precedent-setting in Florida,” says Karen Dwyer, also of the Stonecrab Alliance, “is that we’ve got a city atop the Sunniland Trend oil reserve using its home rule right to protect itself with a local fracking ban. Bonita is a potential hotspot for oil operations in the state and near ground zero for fracking in Florida . “The city is protecting itself, in part, because federal and state agencies have failed to do so,” adds Dwyer.
Local residents are quick to point out that Bonita Springs is located only 10 miles from the Collier Hogan well, the site of unauthorized fracking in 2014 that caused a firestorm of public protest and meetings with state and regulatory agencies. The unauthorized fracking-like incident was breaking news for months and led to state Department of Environmental Protection fines (DEP), penalties, permit revocation, and a still pending lawsuit against Dan A. Hughes, a Texas oil company that leased 115,000 acres for oil operations from the Colliers. The violation was grave. DEP told Hughes not to do a procedure that had never been done before in Florida; they ignored the state and went ahead with fracking; when ordered to Cease and Desist, Hughes continued in direct defiance—willing to pay the small fine. Worse yet, DEP was onsite at the time of the fracking to observe, but not stop the violation because the inspector “did not have enforcement powers.” DEP photographed the labels on the cancer-causing chemicals, but failed to stop the violation, failed to notify the county, and failed to test the water. The incident compelled U.S. Senator Bill Nelson to order a federal investigation of Hughes. He wrote: “We cannot tolerate expanded industrial drilling activities that pose a threat to the drinking and surface water so close to the Florida Everglades. . . . one of the world’s great environmental treasures.” The good news is, that for the first time ever, Collier County sued the state on oil drilling, calling for revocation and remediation. Hughes, in turn, announced it was abandoning all plans to explore for oil in Southwest Florida and mutually terminated its 115,000-acre-oil lease with Collier. The state, in turn, revoked all the company’s permits, filed a lawsuit for cleanup, and promised the community stronger oil and gas laws—laws that the 2015 legislative session failed to put forward or adopt.
“It’s clear no help is coming from the state; we need local bans to protect our water,” says Dona Knapp a shrimper who had her livelihood destroyed by the 2010 BP Gulf Oil Spill, the worst oil disaster on record that is still plaguing Florida’s coastline.
With a landmark victory on the horizon if Bonita adopts the ordinance in a second and final reading Wednesday, locals are gearing up to protect their community. “Wear red in support of the proposed ordinance to prohibit will stimulation,” urges the Conservancy’s Policy Alert.
WHAT: BONITA CITY COUNCIL MEETING – CITIZENS UNITE AND GEAR UP TO SUPPORT CITY’S PROPOSED FRACKING BAN THAT IS DRAWING FIRE
WHO: Stonecrab Alliance with Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Clean Water Initiative, Floridians Against Fracking, concerned citizens, activists, and environmentalists
WHERE: Bonita Spring City Hall, 9101 Bonita Beach Road, Bonita Springs, FL 34135
MY COMMENTS: NO. We just went through this in Naples and with BP and the GOM. The oil companies cannot be trusted to do procedures legally and safely in regards to the environment and to preserve all life including the human impact. If there is one mistake or error on their part, there goes Florida's water. Safety standards are usually ignored. The corporations only care about their profits. We have seen this time and time again. In the meantime, solar energy is made so expensive and with such legal red tape that it is not available to most of us. Those who can implement it are those that can afford it. Definitely NOT the 99%. NO NO NO. The only reason this is not out in the open in regards to BP's total F-up of our Gulf is because of Florida's 85 billion dollar tourist industry. In the meantime, our environment is screwed and people are ill or dying. And then let's talk about the vibrio vulnificus, respiratory problems, cancers, skin lesions and other conditions and the die off of many species. NOT a conspiracy theory. So we Floridians want this to happen again? A repeat, redeux?
By the way, the money the state got from BP? The sick and dying, those who need it, will never see it. It will go to the state and the corporations.