St. Tammany hires lawyer to advise on fracking

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COVINGTON, La. (AP) — The St. Tammany Parish Council has voted to hire an outside attorney to determine the parish's ability to control drilling and hydraulic fracturing activity in the parish.

The council also introduced an ordinance Thursday designed to help protect the parish's roads and bridges from being damaged by oil drilling operations.

The council was reacting to Helis Oil Co.'s proposal to use the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking method, to extract oil and gas from a large shale deposit near Mandeville.

NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune reports (http://bit.ly/1nadkgb ) many parish residents and some public officials have expressed strong opposition to the project, citing concerns about possible pollution to the air, soil and the aquifer that supplies St. Tammany with drinking water.

Councilman Jake Groby introduced a resolution to hire an oil and gas attorney to advise the parish, but after a lengthy debate the measure was amended to delete the type of attorney they would hire. Some council members noted that an attorney with constitutional expertise, rather than oil and gas expertise, might be needed.

The resolution also was amended to add an initial cap of $25,000 on the cost until the lawyer's scope of services is determined, drawing repeated boos from the audience. The council voted 12-1 to approve the measure. Councilman Gene Bellisaro cast the lone no vote, saying he didn't want to see a spending cap placed on the hire.

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Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com

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