The race in Senate District 1 is going to be very hotly contested between former State Rep. Pete Schneider (R-Slidell) and Sharon Hewitt. Not surprisingly, the fracking issue has come up in the seat that represents east St. Tammany Parish.
Last night, a forum was hosted by Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany, which has been among the NIMBY opponents of fracking in the parish. To no one’s surprise, fracking came up as an issue. The candidates had different approaches to the issue.
The first question was whether the candidates would support changing the law that gives the state the sole authority to authorize drilling. Here’s the video
Hewitt, who is a former oil and gas engineer, supported the law. She also explained that oil reserves don’t stop at parish lines. She also explained how safe fracking is and came out in support of Hellis Oil’s project in St. Tammany.
Pete Schneider on the other hand decided to play the demagogue. He said he would support the change in the law. He also came up with the most unique reason we’ve heard so far to oppose fracking, property rights. He even compared it to the Kelo case on eminent domain.
This set Hewitt up for the line of the night in her rebuttal.
The property rights issue we ought to talking about is the one of the landowners that own the mineral rights and have the right to develop their property.
Schneider then went on some kind of bizarre rant about how this was the United States of America and how he had the right to say what he wants. All that was missing is one of Donald Trump’s moronic hats.
The New Orleans Advocate reported that Schneider also came out against tax breaks for fracking. Ironically, Schneider was endorsed by LABI. Why is he endorsing the franchise tax? Is Schneider sure he’s running in the right party?
However CCST wasn’t done with their fracking obsession. They asked if there was enough oversight of oil and gas drilling by the Department of Natural Resources.
Schneider again told CCST what they wanted to hear. He even threatened to block the reauthorization of DNR.
Hewitt though again took a different approach. She pointed out that the study the moderator from CCST mentioned dealt largely with abandoned wells. She then said that with her background in the oil and gas industry, she would be able to ask the tough questions to make sure DNR was doing its job.
On this issue, one candidate clearly stood out with her knowledge and willingness to lead.
Full disclosure: the writer worked on State Senator Jack Donahue’s campaign in 2007 when he ran defeated Pete Schneider in Senate District 11.