Dozens protest oil drilling proposal in Naples
Photo: Video by fox4now.com
NAPLES, Fla. - More than two dozen people congregated at the intersection of 5th Avenue and 9th Street in downtown Naples to protest the impending plan to drill for oil in a neighborhood in Golden Gates.
Collier County residents will turn up the heat in a picket against oil drilling on the Fourth of July. As hundreds drive to the beach to watch the fireworks, participants will rally at the historic 4 corners, with signs, fliers, and newly made flags. Their aim is to raise awareness about the proposed oil drilling site in Golden Gate Estates, while the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) stands at a crossroads, carefully considering whether to deny or permit the drilling application. Signs and flags and armbands will spell out concerns, while leaflets offer links for signing petitions, writing the DEP, attending events, etc.
The drill site is only 1000 feet from family homes and adjacent to the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge and Western Everglades. This is the first time in Collier an oil well would be horizontally drilled so close to family homes and so deep, three miles, penetrating fresh water aquifers and the hydrogen sulfide zone. Hydrogen sulfide poses such a threat that the 35 page emergency-contingency-plan calls for gas masks, oxygen resuscitators, and the evacuation of residents; if flaring is uncontrollable, the plan calls for evacuating the rig and igniting it. No one should have to live in an emergency evacuation zone next to a hazardous drill site and 145’ oil rig.
Fresh water contamination? Residents worry that their drinking water will become contaminated. They’re not alone. Andrew McElwaine, President and CEO of the Conservancy warns that, oil drilling on that land could contaminate the lower aquifer, which serves as Collier County’s backup drinking water supply. “That’s our reserve drinking water,” he says, “You don’t want it to become an industrial cesspool.“ Clean drinking water is a fundamental right.
Fires? Both oil and hydrogen sulfide are highly explosive. Residents have no fire hydrants and must rely on helicopters with buckets to put out fires. An oil well will be even more difficult to extinguish, requiring special chemicals. Response time, at best, is 15 minutes, says Fire Chief Sapp.
Pollution of the watershed? Oil drilling takes place in the Sunniland Trend, a 150-mile long swath of land that runs from Ft. Myers to Miami. The trend passes through the Big Cypress National Preserve, which provides 42 percent of the water flowing into the Everglades National Park. The Preserve is also the recharge area for the aquifers that supply Floridians and the farming industry with potable water. Why risk contaminating the watershed that feeds South Florida and its national parks? Congress, also, authorized a 30-year Everglades Restoration Plan. Why allow oil drilling to endanger that 10-billion-dollar Everglades project, dedicated solely to restoring the south Florida ecosystem? Why risk contaminating fresh water? It’s more valuable than oil.
Other concerns include public safety, oil and toxic brine spills, encroachment on Florida panther habitat, heavy traffic danger to school children, risk to water levels of adjacent wetlands, property values. Residents have called on federal, state and local officials to urge the DEP to deny the permit. Senator Dwight Bullard sent an official letter requesting the DEP deny the permit.