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NEW ORLEANS -- A compromise has been reached in the proposed fracking for a drilling plan by an oil and gas company on the Northshore, St. Tammany Parish officials announced Tuesday.

The Helis Oil and Gas Company will alter its original plans to drill vertically and horizontally to try to extract oil. Instead, parish officials said the company will drill a conventional vertical well and analyze samples to see if there is a cause for additional drilling and possible fracking.

The new plan will take three to four months to determine if the company will proceed with its original plan or just cap the well.

St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister said the phased-in approach would give all parties more time to resolve any remaining differences.

'This is a logical decision by Mr. Kerstein and Helis to postpone the original plans until they are certain they have a viable project,' said Brister. 'We have been working with Helis to find common sense solutions to complicated problems. This change will give us months of more time to resolve remaining differences that may exist, and prepare before any horizontal drilling could be conducted, or potentially not see fracking at all.'

'Our proposal is rooted in our commitment to undertake this project in a way that is safe, respectful and responsive to questions raised by those organizations, elected officials and residents who have engaged us in meaningful and cooperative dialogue. We believe this voluntary, phased approach demonstrates that commitment while protecting our interest in what could be an important energy project,' said Kerstein.

Opponents' reaction to the announcement wasn't supportive.

'For some unknown reason, the parish is missing the point,' said a member of watchdog group Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany, 'We don't want to compromise the aquifer at all with anything affecting the health, safety and welfare of St. Tammany, now or in the future.'

The group also questioned the meeting where the compromise took place.

'Where was the attorney the council agreed to hire to defend residents? And how appropriate was it to negotiate behind closed doors, for anything,' members said.

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