The St. Tammany Parish anti-frackers took their message to Baton Rouge today as they voiced opposition once again to a proposed plan that would allow the Helis Oil and Gas Company to drill 13,400 feet using hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” into the ground on a piece of land around the Mandeville area.
The Department of Natural Resources’ Office of Conservation has up to 60 days to make their decision on whether or not they will approve of the project.
And though the mineral rights of the land owner were mentioned, anti-fracking advocates from St. Tammany asked the Office of Conservation that the entire parish be taken into account when deciding on the matter. The Times Picayune had the story:
Dr. Stephanie Houston Gray told the panel, “We’re here today because we love our parish as a whole, not as a unit. Like it or not, we hold you accountable.”
While the purpose of the hearing was to hear testimony about the legal formation of the unit, under which all mineral rights owners would benefit financially from a successful well, Gray asked the panel to stop thinking in terms of units.
“Can the air and water be unitized?” she asked. “I know that’s what you’re tasked to do . . . .You need to be human, as well.”
Gray said the first fracking well in St. Tammany would lead to an “unleashing” of additional wells in community. “We’re talking about mass tracts.”
Just weeks ago, the St. Tammany anti-fracking crowd packed the St. Tammany Parish Council Chambers as they won out ultimately with three resolutions that attempt to hinder the fracking proposal. One resolution by Councilman Marty Gould of District 5 will seek a judicial injunction which will prohibit the issuance of any drilling permits in the parish.
The other two were by Councilman Jake Groby of District 7. The first requested that the St. Tammany Parish Department of Environmental Services develop a protocol for the establishment of baseline testing for potable water utilizing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) testing methods and certify labs for potable water testing in order to provide potable water certification.
The other will ask the Louisiana Commissioner of Conservation James Welsh to consider delaying a decision on the issuance of any permits relative to fracking in the parish. All three anti-fracking resolutions were unanimously approved as the crowd of Mandeville, Lacombe and Abita Springs residents cheered.
Though believed to be one of the most conservative parishes in the state of Louisiana, residents in the parish have been adamant about their opposition to fracking as a method to drill for oil. To date, there have been numerous events and protests where fracking has been condemned or criticized by local environmentalists and parish officials, particularly Groby and Parish Councilwoman Maureen O’Brien of District 10.