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Ashley Rodrigue / Eyewitness News
Email: arodrigue@wwltv.com | Twitter: @ashleyrwwl

BATON ROUGE, La. -- A New Orleans oil company has taken its first formal step to drill a fracking well in St. Tammany Parish.

'We think it fits with what's been previously adopted,'said Helis attorney Rick Revels. 'We think it's appropriate. We certainly appreciate your consideration and we ask that it be adopted, thank you.'

Revels, and a geologist, presented a packet to the Commission on Conservation Tuesday, complete with support letters, detailing why the company's plan for a fracking well in St. Tammany should be approved.

The 960-acre space, known as a unit, is off of Hwy. 1088 in Mandeville. Having that unit established sets up protections for potential royalties for land and mineral rights owners who are allowing the company to operate.

It also paves the way for the company to apply for a drilling permit, which dozens of residents from St. Tammany came to the hearing to oppose.

'There are other resources in St. Tammany we are not only trying to conserve but preserve for our children,'said Melissa Pierson.

'I ask you to deny any type of petroleum or gas drilling in our region that might hurt our water supply,' said Covington resident John Lee.

The main comment from Helis at the hearing was to ask the commission to use only the details of the plan in its consideration, though they agreed there are broader concerns being raised, which they said should be addressed in another venue.

Industry experts say people should be excited about this process possibly moving forward.

'It's a well-established process that has been employed hundreds of thousands of times in the state of Louisiana and very appropriate and an important part of helping Louisiana and St. Tammany Parish play their important role in contributing to our energy independence,' said Charlotte Batson with Tuscaloosa Energy Services.

Residents says they were happy with the turnout, but weren't sure of the outcome.

We'll have to see what they decide,' said Stephanie Houston Grey.

The commission will be accepting written comments on the unitization application until July 24. The agency estimates a decision could be reached within 30 days.

However, an injunction lawsuit filed Monday night by outside attorneys on behalf of St. Tammany Parish could delay that decision. The suit calls for a court to halt further unitization until the Department of Natural Resources can show compliance with its own regulations and enforcement rules. That was called into question in a recent legislative auditor's report.

The suit also asks a judge to determine whether St. Tammany zoning laws override state laws regarding drilling and whether St. Tammany has the authority to ban fracking.

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