St. Tammany council delays decision on oil and gas fracking project


Posted on May 1, 2014 at 10:29 PM

Updated Monday, May 5 at 10:30 PM

Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: | Twitter: @taniadall

MANDEVILLE, La. - Concerned St. Tammany Parish residents jammed meetings Thursday night in Mandeville and Abita Springs to learn more about a controversial proposal for an oil and gas fracking well in the area.

Some of the citizens said they were worried about air, ground and water pollution if the drilling moves forward.

Reacting to the concerns, the St. Tammany Parish council voted to hire an attorney and said it planned to ask the Louisiana Commissioner of Conservation for a 90-day extension to block Helis Oil and Gas' application for a unitization permit.

"If they develop production of all that you can bet there will be one rig after another and frankly, we'll be in the middle of oil city," said Abita Springs Mayor Greg Lemons.

The plan is to tap into oil and gas resources north of I-12 and east of Louisiana 1088 near Mandeville. Helis Oil and Gas wants to drill 13,400 feet below the ground and then horizontally use the fracking method.

The site is a sprawling 60,000 acres and not far from where Mandy Ringbloom is raising her first born child.

"I'm concerned about the contamination of my water, the contamination of my air, the environment for my child to grow up in," she said.

Ragan Dickens of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association countered that oil is a way of life in Louisiana.

"Oil and gas is nothing new to this state," he said. "It truly is the backbone or crux of this economy. It's done in a safe manner with safety procedures in place. We don't see any threat there."

Just a few miles from the site, concerned citizens held up signs opposed to the fracking plan, while the council tackled the issue.

"I can't drink oil, I need to drink water coming out of our aquifer," said Jerry Binder of the council.

"I just can't help but think that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," added council member Maureen O'Brien.

With those sentiments, the council then agreed to hire an attorney. It also voted to ask the Louisiana Commissioner of Conservation for a 90 day extension in issuing a unitization permit to Helis Oil & Gas Company, LLC.