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Policy: Environment & Energy

St. Tammany to wage court fight against fracking

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News,Business,Energy and Environment,Fracking,Law

COVINGTON, La. (AP) — The St. Tammany Parish Council will go to court to fight a proposed oil drilling project near Mandeville.

By unanimous vote Thursday night, the council adopted a resolution to hire outside attorneys to seek a court judgment and injunction to block the state Department of Natural Resources' Office of Conservation from issuing drilling permits in St. Tammany.

NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune reports (http://bit.ly/1pLwMmW ) Councilman Marty Gould, who sponsored the resolution, also asked that the attorneys explore a possible outright ban on fracking in St. Tammany.

"This hits home real close," said Gould, who said he doesn't live far from the proposed well site. "We're all in this together. Believe me, my heart is into this fight."

The resolution calls for hiring attorneys Guice Giambronne III and Aldric C. Poirier Jr. of Blue Williams LLP, which has offices in Mandeville and Metairie. The two have experience in matters of constitutional law, zoning and oil and gas, the measure says.

Helis Oil & Gas Co. wants to drill a well near Mandeville and use the controversial hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process to extract oil from an ancient layer of shale known as the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale.

Many citizens and some elected officials in the parish vehemently oppose the project, citing concerns about air and ground pollution and potential harm to the aquifer that supplies the parish's drinking water. Many homeowners also fear property values will diminish as a result of fracking.

Helis, of New Orleans, wants to drill a well 13,400 feet deep on undeveloped land north of Interstate 12, about a mile east of Louisiana 1088, northeast of Mandeville. If the well appears to be commercially viable based on the initial data obtained, Helis said it would then drill horizontally and use the fracking method to extract oil. The process involves pumping large amounts of water and chemicals into the well at extreme pressures to create cracks in the shale and allow the oil to flow into the well for extraction.

Helis has said the process is routine and that the company would make the environment and health of citizens a priority. The company and other proponents of the project say many wells have been drilled over the years through the aquifer without causing any damage or problems.

The project would be the first fracking operation in St. Tammany.

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

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