Ashley Rodrigue / Eyewitness News
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MANDEVILLE, La. -- More than 100 people packed the Community Center to talk oil drilling Wednesday night.

The tense group heard presentations from the state agency that regulates the industry and put concerns about a potential fracking project for the area on record.

Land along Hwy. 1088 in the Mandeville-Abita Springs area is on the radar of a New Orleans oil and gas company. Helis wants to use the 960 acres to drill a well into a rock formation more than 13,000 feet underground, called the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale.

To get oil out, they want to drill down, then horizontally and then use the hydraulic fracturing process, or fracking, which breaks the ground with high-pressure fluids.

Dozens of people packed the public meeting to weigh in on that plan.

'Make sure they hear our voice that we're against fracking in St. Tammany Parish,'Lacombe resident Gary Leonard said.

'There's a lot of press out there good and bad, but I don't understand the process enough,' said Abita Springs Mayor Greg Lemons, 'the good, bad, the ugly, the dangers, risk, reward.'

A Mandeville man said, 'It's been going on all over the country. It's been going on within our state. It's been going on big in Texas right now. So it's just open questions. I don't have a particular agenda.'

But many residents did come with opposition and showed their frustrations often. Their concerns covered property values, environmental protections and, most commonly, the safety and quality of the Southern Hills aquifer.

Speakers from the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources told the crowd about the drilling and fracking processes, permitting and regulations, but many people's fears remained.

One man said, 'When we drill through that, we damn well better have sealing on the well.'

It's a battle many understand will be a long one and one most seem ready to fight it as long as it takes.

A public hearing on the company's first request in the process is set for May 13 in Baton Rouge. An attempt by Rep. Tim Burns, R-Mandeville, to delay that for 60 days was unsuccessful.

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