At the beginning of the twentieth century, Barron Gift Collier bought 1.2 million acres of South Florida including much of what is now Collier County and Everglades National Park. Over the years, Collier and his descendants sold off or donated hundreds of thousands of acres to development or to (tax-free) conservation land. But they retained the mineral rights. On his deathbed in 1939, Barron Gift Collier told his sons, “I know there’s oil out there–I can smell the oil.”
In 1943 Humble Oil Company (now Exxon) struck oil in what is now known as the “Sunniland Trend”, an oil reservoir that extends from northeastern Fort Myers southeastward into Miami-Dade County. The oil was good enough for the WWII war effort, but it was too little and too sour to hold the interest of the major oil companies, who all moved on to richer fields. Over the following 70 years a succession of small-time operators have extracted some 100 million barrels of sour crude from the remote western Everglades swamp–only about one day of present global oil production.
But as sure as there’s oil in the Gulf of Mexico, there’s oil across all of South Florida, certainly on the Gulf side. With record high oil prices and new extreme extraction techniques like “fracking”, the Collier Family moved Gulfward from the remote swamp, leasing 115,000 acres to the Dan A. Hughes oil company of Beeville, Texas. Hughes applied for permits for three wells, including one well–the “Golden Gate Estates well”.
The “Golden Gate Well” is an exploratory “wildcat” well that was rubber-stamp approved for drilling by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on September 20, 2013. (The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has never denied a permit.) Per Florida law, Preserve Our Paradise immediately petitioned for an administrative hearing to rescind the permit.
The Golden Gate well has attracted national attention because it threatens so many aspects of our environment: it is within a thousand feet of a subdivision where all homes rely on private well water, within a mile of a municipal water supply serving some 300,000 people, and within a mile of the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. As a result, the Golden Gate well provides an excellent introduction to the threats presented by other wells across Florida.
- The Golden Gate Oil Well Court Case
- History of Oil in the Sunniland Trend
- Acid Fracking
- Global Warming
- The Florida Panther
- News and Media Backgrounders