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GOLDEN GATE ESTATES — Living in Golden Gate Estates shouldn’t be a blast.
More than 150 residents voiced their concerns Thursday night at a community meeting about an oil and gas well-drilling company’s plan to drill off 24th Avenue Southeast near Desoto Boulevard in Golden Gate Estates.
Adam Romero, who lives off 24th Avenue Southeast, told the panel of speakers explaining the project that he now lives in a “blast zone.”
The 39-year-old said he’s concerned about his property values and increased traffic on the dirt road.
His 24th Avenue Southeast neighbor, Pamela Duran, 64, told the panel: “You are endangering my family.”
The standing-room-only crowd applauded.
Henry Kremers, chief operating officer for Dan A. Hughes Co., a Texas-based oil and gas exploration company, told the audience that a person takes a greater risk when driving a car. Kremers told residents what to expect if the permits are approved and attempted to clear up misconceptions about an oil well.
Even so, residents shared their concerns about potential oil spills contaminating their well water, environmental risks and potential property values decreasing with representatives from Hughes Co., the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Barron Collier Co., Collier Enterprises, Collier County staff and fire officials. They gathered for a more than two-hour meeting at the University of Florida, Collier County IFAS Extension Office, 14700 Immokalee Road.
“Nobody here wants this oil well,” Roberto Roy, 32, told the speakers. “People moved out here for the peace and quiet. Having that out there is definitely going to disrupt our lifestyle.”
Roy, who lives on 24th Avenue Southeast, asked the panelists how they plan to inform the public if there’s a gas leak or oil spill.
“Who is going to tell us to get out?” Roy said.
About 50 residents first became concerned when alerted to the need for evacuation plans through letters received in April from Total Safety Inc., a Mobile, Ala., company that handles safety and contingency plans for the drilling company.
The letters sought household information that Total Safety Inc. would use to create emergency evacuation plans on behalf of Hughes Co. in case of an explosion or other disaster at a proposed drilling site.
Barron Collier Co. owns the site for the wells. The Hughes Co. is seeking DEP permits to explore the site.
“We will not drill until we get a permit,” Kremers told the crowd.
Assuming that the permits are approved, Kremers said the company would move ahead by the fall.
The wells are near the western border of the Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge, about five miles north of Interstate 75 and 15 miles east of Collier Boulevard in the rural Estates.
Several residents have written to DEP asking that the public comment period be extended for the two initial DEP permits requested by Hughes Co.
The company submitted a waiver to the 30-day application review process, thereby allowing this preliminary review to be extended until as late as July 1, according to officials.
Once DEP approves or denies the application, any person with substantial interests affected by that decision may petition DEP within 21 days of the approval or denial, according to officials.
The proposed exploratory well will be completed in the lower Sunniland Formation, which is a limestone formation that has produced oil in Collier County since 1943, according to a statement sent by the Hughes Co. to residents in late April.
The site will be tested for oil and gas resources.
Kremers said fracking hasn’t been contemplated as part of this project.
Fracking is hydraulic fracturing, a process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at high pressure to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas inside. It takes millions of gallons of water, nearly 600 chemicals and toxins, as well as dozens of trucks to complete a fracturing job.
After the meeting adjourned, a couple of residents chanted “no drilling” and “people over profits.”
The Golden Gate Estates Area Civic Association is also hosting a public meeting June 19 to further discuss the project.