Citizens group urges Council to act as Corps raises fracking con - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Citizens group urges council to act as Corps raises fracking concerns

MANDEVILLE, LA (WVUE) -

The group Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany is urging the Parish Council to vote to ban fracking now that the Army Corps of Engineers has issued a letter expressing concerns about Helis Oil's proposed site.

The Corps and the State Department of Wildlife and Fisheries say the area is wetlands. Helis says the Corps' response is not unusual.

"I think it's the regular process they go through to make sure they have every base covered to make sure every contingency is taken care of," said St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister.

With 'no fracking' billboards popping up in the parish, the EPA has come out the strongest.

"At this point, the EPA recommends that a department of Army permit not be issued for this activity until the applicant demonstrates the need for the project and its location within a wetland area and provides a full evaluation of less environmentally damaging alternatives," said Helis through spokesman Raul Gutierrez, Ph.D.

It's more fuel for the group Concerned Citizens of St Tammany.

"I think the best solution would be to adopt a no-drilling ordinance," said CCST spokesman Rick Franzo.

That would be similar to action taken in New York, where that state's Supreme Court recently upheld ordinances that ban fracking.

"We'd like them to pass it before Helis gets a permit to drill," Franzo added.

The Corps is also weighing in.

"There is a presumption that a less damaging alternative site exists and that the applicant is required to consider less damaging alternatives," said Corps evaluator Michael Farabee.

In a statement, Helis spokesman Greg Beuerman said:

"Permitting is often a process of questions, answers and public comment and this project is certainly no different. We understand why the agencies want to be very precise and meticulous about this project and we applaud and support that approach."

In the meantime, CCST said it will move forward with it's own court action to try and block drilling if the council fails to act.

"We're going to go back to the constitutional law where health, safety and welfare of the citizens will trump all these other laws," said Franzo.

The Corps said Helis is under no deadline to respond to its latest concerns.

Helis's application to form a drilling ownership group is still awaiting action from the state Department of Natural Resources. The company has not yet applied for an actual drilling permit.

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