MANDEVILLE, La. -- Families filed Monday night into the Castine Center with messages for Helis Oil & Gas, both on signs and expressed in other ways.
But they also came with many questions, which they learned off the bat wouldn't get answered.
Parish Councilman Jake Groby read from a letter the company sent him last week in response to his invite to the meeting, which said, “I respectfully decline this opportunity. Thank you for inviting us.”
Many were hoping to get specifics on what's planned to go on property along Hwy. 1088 in the Mandeville area. The most common question was how would the fracking project affect the area's drinking water?
The company said it declined the invitation because it has a policy of only having respectful dialogue with citizens and public officials.
People say they're not surprised by the absence, but they are disappointed.
"I wanted to hear what they had to say and I wanted to hear them answer to the ideas that fracking causes a lot of pollution and can cause some bad accidents," said resident Lauren Leonard.
"There really has never been any dialog with them since day one. It seems like they're set on doing fracking in St. Tammany Parish and that everything and anything we attempt to do, it doesn’t really concern them," said Mandeville resident Gary Leonard.
What residents did get was a presentation by nationally-known environmentalist Wilma Subra about what fracking sites look like, how they operate and how they've affected communities across the country. It’s information parish leaders were hoping to compare to Helis' plans.
"If their science is solid and their cause is just, what's the problem?" Groby said. "It's just two points of opposing view."
Helis has told both parish government and the Department of Natural Resources that it intends to postpone an approval hearing for its location Tuesday, in an effort to slow down the process for the community. But many say they'll be keeping their eye on that proceeding to make sure that happens.
If the hearing is postponed, it will be rescheduled in 30 days. The company has given some details about its plans in a statement released more than a week ago. You can find it here.