MANDEVILLE, La. - Since April, several public meetings on a controversial fracking plan in St. Tammany have included comments and presentations, almost all, against the oil exploration method. But some say there have always been fracking supporters sitting quietly in the crowd.
Covington resident Dick Blossman is one of them.
Blossman, a lifelong resident of St. Tammany, believes the project, planned off of Highway 1088 near Mandeville, and most others like it, are safe and good.
"I am in favor of drilling, fracking, Keystone Pipeline, solar, wind power, this country needs all the energy we can get," he said.
That opinion is one some Mandeville council members said Thursday night that they hadn't heard enough of. So the body deferred a decision on whether that municipality would be the next on a list of several taking a stance against fracking.
It's also an opinion a community consultant for Helis, the company planning the well, is glad to finally hear.
"Certainly we welcome anyone willing and able and so on to step forward and give their thoughts on the important role that this project in St. Tammany Parish can play in energy independence," said Charlotte Batson, a petroleum engineer and founder of Tuscaloosa Energy Services.
Even those who have been staunchly opposed since the beginning say hearing the other side is needed.
"I think it’s always important to hear both points of view before making a decision,” said Mandeville Mayor Donald Villere, “I felt like I did have both points of view and felt like the decision I made was in the best interest of the people."
Blossman said his position is based on the best interest of his wife, six children and 13 grandchildren. “I would never be in favor of anything that would be of damage to them,” he said.
And Blossman doesn’t understand some of the concerns people have shared, especially the fear for the area aquifer. “This big lake that we have under our ground here, it goes from Baton Rouge and it’s all over this area,” he said, “So we would be naiive to think 'Hey, just under us is where the water is.' It's all over and they're fracking and there's no problem."
For now, Blossman is one man publicly saying turning away Helis' possible opportunity dashes dreams for landowners and the community. He’s hoping others, who feel the same way, start saying so, as well.
A lawsuit filed by the parish to stop the state from approving drilling permits in St. Tammany is awaiting a hearing date. In the meantime, Helis has started a website, Facebook page and Twitter page to engage with the community.
They are: http://www.helisenergyproject.com/ https://www.facebook.com/sttammanyenergyproject https://twitter.com/STPenergy