The mayor of Covington, a modest town of just under nine thousand people in southeastern Louisiana, has publicly denounced a recent proposal for fracking near Mandeville in St. Tammany Parish. New Orleans-based company Helis Oil & Gas Co., LLC proposed to drill in the parish in early April, and many St. Tammany Parish residents have expressed apprehension about the plan. Mayor Mike Cooper empathizes with the disapproval and conveyed his “serious objections” in a news release on May 14.
As no drilling has been done in the last 25 years in the parish, it is understandable that citizens are so concerned. The proposed well would extend at least 13,000 feet into the ground and then continue through the shale laterally.
Helis has agreed this week that they will postpone hydraulic fracking on the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale and instead will stick to drilling a vertical well. Helis had originally been scheduled to meet with the Department of Natural Resources’ Office of Conservation on May 13 in Baton Rouge. However, Louisiana State Representative Tim Burns of Mandeville delayed the hearing for at least 60 days to allow for more community opinion to be heard.
Cooper says this delay is “not enough,” as the citizens of Covington, who also fall in the St. Tammany Parish, “have justified concerns about the prospect of drilling and fracking.” In his research on fracking to become more educated on the matter following the proposal, Cooper say he has decided that St. Tammany is not an appropriate location. The proposal warranted the same response from Rep. Burns, who said that St. Tammany Parish residents “are understandably concerned about any activity that would detract from its appeal.”
Cooper expressed that he was proud to stand in opposition to the proposal stating he’s “not sure the suggested economic benefit outweighs the possible detriment to the quality of life we enjoy.” Other mayors, including Mayor Greg Lemons of Abita Springs and Mayor Donald Villere of Mandeville, have publicly opposed the local company’s plan in the past two weeks.
In the meantime, the St. Tammany Democratic Parish Executive Committee has voted against Helis’ proposal and an unopposed resolution against permitting the project is on its way to the three regulatory agencies: the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, and the Army Corps of Engineers. All three agencies must approve Helis’ proposal before permits can be granted and the project can be undertaken.
Among other concerns on the effects for St. Tammany residents is the safety of the parish’s drinking water, which is drawn from above the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale. Supporters claim that no accidents in similar drilling situations have occurred in the state and that the aquifer is unlikely to be polluted. The St. Tammany Democratic Parish panel’s claims are naturally completely opposite, stating studies have shown dangerous radiation levels and other pollution in water supplies near fracking sites elsewhere in the country.