Wilma Subra’s Hilarious Comeuppance At The New Orleans Geological Society

First, some background. Wilma Subra is the “science” behind the Louisiana Environmental Action Network; she’s something of a patron saint for our local loony environmental Left.

Her LEAN bio

Wilma Subra
Chemist / Technical Adviser

Committed to protecting the environment and the health and safety of citizens, Wilma Subra started Subra Company in 1981. Subra Company is a chemistry lab and environmental consulting firm in New Iberia, LA.  Mrs. Subra provides technical assistance to citizens, across the United States and some foreign countries, concerned with their environment by combining technical research and evaluation. This information is then presented to community members so that strategies may be developed to address their local struggles.

Utilizing the information gained from community involvement, the needs identified are translated into policy changes at the State and Federal level through service on multi-stake holder committees. She has just completed a seven year term as Vice-Chair of the Environmental Protection Agency National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology (NACEPT), a five year term on the National Advisory Committee of the U.S. Representative to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation and a six year term on the EPA National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) where she served as a member of the Cumulative Risk and Impacts Working Group of the NEJAC Council, and chaired the NEJAC Gulf Coast Hurricanes Work Group.

Mrs. Subra holds degrees in Microbiology/Chemistry from the University of Southwestern Louisiana. She received the MacArthur Fellowship “Genius” Award from the MacArthur Foundation for helping ordinary citizens understand, cope with and combat environmental issues in their communities and was one of three finalist in the Environmental Category of the 2004 Volvo for Life Award. Was selected in 2011 as one of the ‘Lifetime Remarkable Woman’ and most recently won the 2011 Global Exchange, Human Rights Award for her ongoing work with the BP Oil Spill and the communities affected by it.

See anything in there having to do with geology? No, you don’t. Because Wilma Subra doesn’t know anything about geology. She’s not a geologist. But she is holding herself out as an expert on hydraulic fracturing, which is an exercise in geology.

Subra and her gang of enviroloons have been the ones spearheading the opposition to fracking in St. Tammany Parish, and the representations they’ve made about the effect fracking will have on the water supply there have convinced some portion of the public in that parish that a grave environmental hazard is afoot if any wells were to be drilled there. Specifically, that somehow if a well were to be drilled 10,000 feet below the bottom of the Southern Hills aquifer that runs below St. Tammany Parish somehow that would introduce methane and/or hydraulic frac fluid into the water supply.

To understand how stupid this is, you have to recognize that an aquifer is more or less an underground river, and like all rivers it flows from higher elevations to lower elevations – and ultimately dumps out into the ocean. And in the case of the Southern Hills aquifer, that means it flows from north to south through St. Tammany on the way to the Gulf of Mexico. And that also means that when there are lots of oil wells being drilled and “fracked” north of St. Tammany Parish, in southern Mississippi, for example, that whatever negative effect on the water supply there might be from fracking would come to St. Tammany whether any wells are drilled there or not.

Geologists we’ve talked to find this whole anti-fracking thing comical. And that comedy was on full display Monday, when Subra presented to the New Orleans Geological Society.

Faimon Roberts of the New Orleans Advocate picks it up from here with a rather hilarious retelling…

Subra’s half-hour speech — a recap of the basics of how fracking works and the slow progress of the plan by Helis Oil & Gas Co. to put such a well in St. Tammany Parish — was given to the New Orleans Geological Society, a group formed in 1941 “with specific emphasis to exploration and production of petroleum and natural gas,” according to the group’s website.

During her comments, Subra criticized Helis for acquiring the rights to some 60,000 acres in St. Tammany Parish without the public being informed. Unlike other parishes, where parish clerks’ offices have been besieged by landmen seeking to put together parcels large enough to lease, Helis was able to acquire the acreage from just a few large landowners.

“This was all done very quietly,” she said.

Subra recounted the Helis plan’s poor reception in the parish and related the basic arguments contained in a lawsuit filed by parish government against Louisiana Commissioner of Conservation James Welsh to try to prevent Welsh from issuing the company a drilling permit.

Exasperated sighs greeted some of Subra’s comments during her speech, but it was during a question-and-answer period that things truly became contentious.

“I personally resent your insinuation that people like Helis … that when we are out leasing we should let everybody know what we are doing,” Donald Andrews said. “You have got abysmal ignorance about drilling.”

Subra apologized for offending Andrews.

Her assertion that none of the wells already in St. Tammany Parish penetrated the Tusacaloosa Marine Shale was immediately disputed by Paul Lawless, Helis’ geologic manager, who was at the talk.

“There are over 50 wells that have been drilled onshore in St. Tammany Parish, and 45 of which have been drilled through the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale,” Lawless said.

After the talk, Subra laughed off the unfriendly reception. “I am used to it,” she said.

She might have laughed it off, but she’s the one being laughed at.

We’ve never heard of a “secret” oil lease. It doesn’t work that way. Oil companies might not take an ad out in a newspaper, but those leases do get filed at the parish courthouse. That’s the kind of thing geologists who work in the oil and gas industry will know quite well. So when Wilma Subra comes in with the same “trouble in River City” spiel she gives to soccer moms at town hall meetings to a gathering of those geologists…well, that’s not going to go over very famously, is it?

But the most hilarious aspect of this is her assertion that the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale has never been drilled before in St. Tammany. To tell that to a room full of oil company geologists is almost indescribable in its foolishness. Many of these guys know that what is now the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale used to be known more or less as the Tuscaloosa Trend, and it was a major oil play in the middle to late part of the 20th century. The wells drilled in St. Tammany in pursuit of Tuscaloosa Trend crude were drilled right through the shale formation they want to exploit now; there was hydraulic fracturing then, but they didn’t have the horizontal drilling available now to make a shale play productive enough to be economically viable. So those wells, which were intended to drill straight down into a pool of oil, went right through the aquifer and the shale formation.

Again – the geologists at the New Orleans Geological Society are fully aware of this. Along comes Wilma Subra to tell them the opposite, and she’s not a geologist.

It’s a colossal shame there was no video of this feeding frenzy.

“Abysmal ignorance about drilling.” We would have paid to see that.

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