Herschel Vinyard, the head of the state Department of Environmental Protection, traveled Monday night to Collier County, promising greater transparency and an open dialogue to address local concerns about issues at an oil well near Immokalee.
But despite those promises, Vinyard met with Tom Henning, chairman of the Collier County Board of Commissioners, in a late meeting that was not open to the public.
“We want to find out how we can help folks in Collier County,” Vinyard said by phone. “Our objective is to listen and develop partnerships. We want to be as transparent as humanly possible.”
When asked why Monday’s meeting wasn’t open to the public, Vinyard said the state had already sent department geologist Ed Garrett to several public meetings in Collier County.
“We had the state’s top oil and gas regulator down in the area on three separate occasions for public meetings,” Vinyard said. “He was very knowledgeable of the program and answered many of the questions folks have. Now the chairman has some questions and we’re going to make certain we’re meeting the county’s needs in an open and transparent way.”
Henning, who said last week that meeting DEP officials in private “goes against everything all of us on the Board of County Commissioners stand for” and called for “an open public dialogue to learn what needs to be learned and take action where it needs to be taken,” declined multiple requests for comment
He issued a brief statement that read, “Moving forward in challenge of consent order.”