Hughes still drilling at Lake Trafford??  As we’ve been saying, it’s likely all kayfabe

In a week or two, Judge D. R. Alexander will hand down his order on the Golden Gate well, the well Hughes wanted to drill after the Lake Trafford Well (aka “Collier-Hogan”, well 1349H).  If Judge Alexander rules in favor of Hughes and the FDEP (administrative judges nearly always do so), Preserve Our Paradise will appeal. 

Hughes could attempt to drill despite an appeal, but our case is strong and we should be likely to win an injunction to prevent drilling.  Besides, the driling rig is needed elsewhere, perhaps by a different company.  (Trend Energy LLC just filed an application to drill on land previously leased by Hughes from Collier Resources in Lee County.

The chronology of events remains suspicious.  Apparently, on Dec. 23, 2013, Hughes informed the FDEP that Hughes was going to conduct a workover of the Lake Trafford well.  On December 27, PoP alerted members that a Baker-Hughes fracking convoy was heading from Louisiana to Lake Trafford.  Possibly concerned that the public would find out about Hughes’ plans, the FDEP told Hughes to hold off on the operation until Dec. 30 so FDEP staff could review the operation.  On Dec. 31, not having heard from the FDEP, Hughes went ahead with the workover, whereupon the FDEP gave Hughes a “verbal” order to stop.  But Hughes had already begun the operation; it was too late to just stop.

Neither Hughes nor the FDEP will disclose just what Hughes did under cover of darkness last New Year’s Eve, claiming it is a “trade secret”.  But assume it was a frack job.  Hughes got the job done while both Hughes and the FDEP got plausible deniability.  The FDEP eventually announced it had fined Hughes $25,000–more of a handshake than a slap-on-the-wrist–and Hughes can claim, as it started to do in court, that the FDEP had not told Hughes to stop its plans within the originally agreed upon Dec. 30th timeframe. 

The problem was the cover-up.  Neither Hughes nor the FDEP disclosed these events to the court in PoP’s ongoing court case or to the Big Cypress Swamp Advisory Committee, as required by law.  The $25,000 consent order between the FDEP was only executed and leaked to the press one week after PoP filed an April 2, 2014 Public Records Request demanding release of FDEP staff records concerning the Collier-Hogan well. 

The consent order required Hughes to install groundwater monitoring wells at the Collier-Hogan well.  But if the FDEP was concerned about contamination of public drinking water, why did it wait three months to initiate monitoring???  Even still, activities and, possibly production, continue at the Collier Hogan well. 

As of April 25, PoP had still not received compliance with its Public Records Request, so we filed an action in Florida Circuit Court to force the FDEP to comply with Florida Sunshine laws.  At this point the FDEP began releasing a few pro forma documents, but to this date they have released no staff emails or phone call records concerning the Collier Hogan well except for one agenda containing a single item-line.

We would like to believe that that Governor Scott has had a change of heart and decided to re-hire all of the FDEP inspectors he let go, and that he intends to put Florida on course to a future with sustainable and renewable energy.   But we must also be concerned that these incidents are only so much election year kayfabe, designed to greenwash his run for re-election in November.

Forthright compliance with our public records request would be a ray of sunshine.