Local News Opinion

Citizen’s Group Calls For Baseline Water Test by Timothy Gates, Correspondent

Voices of St. Tammany, a local citizen’s advocacy group, sent out a press release last week calling for baseline water testing across St. Tammany Parish before any industrial operations begin.  The focus of the request is directed at the St. Tammany Parish Government and Helis Oil and Gas Company, the company currently preparing the well site near Hwy. 1088 in Mandeville. The statement calls for independent testing of municipal wells across the parish that reflect a variation of well depth.

Most recently, St. Tammany Parish Government posted a “Cease and Desist” notice at the well site, pending an appeal process with regard to Judge Morvant’s (Baton Rouge) April decision.  Earlier this week, Morvant ruled that an appeal of this decision could continue.  Response from Helis representatives referred to the action as “illegal” and in violation of applicable state law, stating that the project is moving forward as permitted.

Many local citizens groups with a focus on the issue of hydraulic fracturing saw the action as a victory, however small.  The decision that there is no local control over development, coupled with years of state legislation that is beneficial to select corporate interests, is a situation that needs attention from representatives and senators on a realistic level, not a rhetorical one.  Increasingly obvious is the fact that changes need to take place on the state level, a sentiment echoed to this writer over a year ago, at the very beginning of the fracking debate, by an employee of the Department of Natural Resources.

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swamp-bayou-louisiana-moss-cypress-natureMayor Greg Lemons of Abita Springs, a fairly well-known name among the hydraulic fracturing opposition, is a proponent of baseline water testing across the parish, before any operations begin.  He stressed the importance of establishing what is and what is not currently in the water supply to have an accurate assessment of the effects of possible future industrial operations.  Mayor Lemons suggested that the Parish take the lead on this issue with the support of locally formed citizen’s advocacy groups, of which there are several.

Describing himself as both a buinessman and a realist, Lemons offered some personal insight into his objections to hydraulic fracturing operations.  Natural gas is burned off rather than processed at many producing sites.  It is a costlier process, both production and tax- wise, so it is often wasted instead.  Watching what is produced shipped to overseas markets, while also watching the price of the natural gas provided to the citizens of Abita rise in price, Lemons commented that from a business perspective, the results of operations do not support the rhetoric of “energy independence”, and in fact, can show the opposite effect.

Mayor Lemons says that he’s “elected to serve the people of Abita Springs, no one else.”  He also realizes this is bigger than him.  “What legacy do we want to leave our children? Pollution? Radiation? Louisiana’s delicate ecosystem is being destroyed.  That’s not an environmentalist {talking}, that’s a realist.”   Thank you, Mayor Lemons.

Note:  There was no response from Helis representatives regarding baseline testing as of this writing. Timothy Gates may be reached: 985-288-9609  or  covweekly@gmail.com