MANDEVILLE, La. -- The St. Tammany Parish Council made its strongest stance yet against fracking Thursday night.
In front of a standing room only crowd, the council voted to stave off a plan to drill by authorizing outside attorneys to seek a court injunction.
Since April, there has been a frantic effort to learn about, and how to stop, a fracking project planned along Hwy. 1088 in Mandeville. Thursday night, hundreds packed the St. Tammany Parish Council Chambers to weigh in on the government's next move in the fight.
"This comes down to health, welfare and safety and we do not believe that the Commissioner of Conservation can protect the health, welfare and safety of our people if they issue permits in our area," said Councilman Marty Gould. "They can't handle what they have now, who's gonna regulate what comes here?"
Gould suggested allowing a special law firm to file an injunction against the state's permitting agency to prevent Helis Oil from taking the first step in the drilling process.
The action comes on the heels of an audit report calling the state’s inspections and enforcement of oil wells inadequate. The entire council agreed with Gould’s proposal, along with an added move to research a ban.
The parish president said the move is in line with other local regulations leaders are creating right now.
"We're looking at every way we can protect our parish, our environment, our water, our air, the noise levels, so we're doing all those things and this is one more thing we're going to do," said St. Tammany President Pat Brister.
But every person that spoke on the item said they wanted more, in the form of a moratorium or outright ban.
One member of the audience told the council he was giving permission to spend every dollar available to fight fracking.
"It’s only temporary,” said resident Terri Lewis Stevens, “We need something in place that's a stop-gap today that will prevent the effort prior to any drilling being granted by the state and that's the only measure we believe is effective at this point."
Currently, without intervention, Helis is scheduled to go before the Commission on Conservation in two weeks for that first step in the permitting process, which is to approve the area the company wants to work in.
The council also voted to set up local standards for water quality testing and to seek a court determination on the parish’s zoning authority.