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Opinion

Fracking No Longer A Plan For Helis

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Helis Oil and Gas Company announced earlier this week that they would not pursue their proposed project near Lakeshore High School.  The stated reason is that analysis of the sample did not indicate a profitable return.  A recent Lee Zurik investigation indicates other possible factors for their withdrawal:  discovery that one of the Justices hearing the case received campaign cash from Helis, amid rumors that other conflicts of interest were present.

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At the very least, the Helis saga indicates a need for greater transparency  with regard to the process of economic development in St. Tammany Parish.  Incidentally, Parish President Pat Brister expressed the sentiment that in order to address issues of oil and gas extraction in the parish, it must be taken to the state legislature, a concept that CW has expressed numerous times since the beginning of the fracking controversy.

fare-the-well-helis-page-001

Opinion

Tammany West Needs To Re Evaluate Tactics

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Editorial by Timothy Achan Gates, CW Correspondent

Kevin Chiri wrote in a recent editorial that the perceived battle between St. Tammany Parish Government and CCST needed a “time out.”  First, there are no “time-outs” in debates that concern the health and safety of an entire community.  Whether one is opposed to or in favor of fracking, industrialization is an issue that is a community decision.  A democratically cherished ideal is crushed when the Parish reports to us that St. Tammany has no right to Self Determination with regard to the oil industry.
This sentiment was presented by Covington Weekly in Patrick Courrege’s (LA DNR) suggestion of Changing the Law at the State Level.  While the Parish Government feigned surprise when Helis’ public announcement was made, they sat on e-mails indicating knowledge of a plan years in advance, which were eventually made public.  The business lobbying groups just laughed, continuing to place people in office who will “do what they want.”

Chiri’s editorial goes on to moralize the situation, undoubtedly emboldened by his self-appointed position as referee between the Parish Government and a community advocacy group, relegating the whole thing to a lack of respect for authority.

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Disrespect for the Public and Democratic Principles in General is Exemplified by Public Officials and Industry Colluding to Industrialize A Community Behind the Backs of Their Constituencies. 
There is ample evidence to back the assertion that Parish Administration was aware of the Helis project well before it became public knowledge.  To pretend ignorance, then pursue a lawsuit against a sanctioned project while shaming the public about the amount of money spent on said lawsuit, is absurd.  There are several instances across the parish involving drainage litigation resulting from infringing development where the parish spends a significant amount more fighting its own constituency, as opposed to what it has spent “fighting” fracking.
Disrespect Is NBC Director Larry Rase Berating the Public Due to Their Lack of Appreciation For All  the Oil and Gas Industry Does For the Parish. 
Ironically, the Advocate recently ran a series detailing the amount of tax incentives given away, roughly 1.4 – 1.6 billion dollars, a number that basically equals Louisiana’s deficit.  Oil and Gas is a large recipient of these incentives, so the question becomes, if the Oil and Gas Industry is so beneficial to the state, why is there a budget deficit equal to tax incentives given strictly to big business, while small businesses are consistently asked to pay more and more?      Where Is The Disrespect, Again?

Email:  covweekl@gmail.com

General Local News Opinion

Why The Race For Parish President Is About So Much More Than Fracking

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by Timothy Achan Gates, Correspondent

Faimon A. Roberts III of The Advocate writes that fracking is the lead issue in the St. Tammany Parish President race. It is one of the bigger economic debates to appear locally in this writer’s recent memory, with no qualms about expressing opposition to the project.

Fracking is less a partisan debate than Rep. Steve Scalise would like to pretend; V.P. Joe Biden’s son Hunter oversaw hydraulic fracturing operations in the Ukraine while a governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, was the first Republican governor to ban fracking statewide.

Fracking, an increasingly controversial practice of oil and gas extraction labeled as economic development, is a symptom of a larger problem: the manipulation of Constitutional Law to the benefit of the manipulators.

The Constitution is meant as a safeguard for the citizenry. However, it doesn’t matter what laws are in place when there are legislators willing and able to circumvent said laws for personal gain, and that of political allies. Add large amounts of money from the lobbyists sponsoring the changes, and suddenly the law is unconstitutional.

Conflicts of interest among our elected officials routinely keep them in their positions due to the flow of money established by said conflicts. For example, Rep. Tim Burns is Vice President and General Counsel of Florida Marine, the transport company associated with the fleet of tugboats owned by St. Tammany Parish through Economic Development Foundation revenue bonds.

He's just a bill.

He’s just a bill.

Rep. Burns submitted legislation that provides specific exception to State of Louisiana Ethics Laws for the St. Tammany Parish Economic Development Foundation. The public is told that with regard to fracking, it is a State Law issue, and therefore should be addressed at the State level. This writer’s question is, if they can write legislation to circumvent State Law with regard to Ethics, why can’t they write legislation to circumvent State Oil & Gas Laws?

This is the type of question that should be answered by the current office holders looking to keep their office, rather than their overplayed stance on fracking. If the Federal Government followed its own laws, fracking would not even exist in its current form.

A Thank You to The Advocate, for letting me know what the most important issue is in this race. If only it were that simple. In the meantime, I’m going to send a message to the EDF and request some quasi-public documents while I wait for a response to the question above.

Contact Timothy:  covweekly@gmail.com

Local News Opinion

5 Reasons Karen Champagne Might Be A Good St. Tammany Parish President

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By Timothy Achan Gates, Correspondent

Karen Treadway Champagne is challenging Pat Brister for Parish President in this coming October election. Karen is active in lobbying efforts at the state level with a focus on individual liberties and constitutional action/remedy. Recognizing the need for oversight of corporate influence on legislative activity, Karen co-founded The People, LLC in order to address issues of civil and personal liberty.  The following are five reasons why Karen Champagne might make a good parish president of St. Tammany.
1. Champagne understands what is happening.
In June of 2014, Covington Weekly published How The EDF Can Operate Outside Of State Ethics Laws, detailing legislative maneuvering inconsistent with constitutional law. As the legislative session was happening, Champagne was in Baton Rouge, actively working to convince LA Rep. Tim Burns to pull the bill. Angela Alef recounts: ‘Burns laughed and responded, I’m not pulling that bill.’
2. Champagne would like to do better things with your money. After taking some heat for her stance on fracking, Champagne claims misquotation in a local paper with regard to this issue, in which she was quoted that she would not fight to keep it out. She has released a video clarifying that the issue resides at the state level, and she would not use tax dollars to fight fracking at the parish level. Conversely, her stance on representational and limited government would indicate that Champagne is not in agreement with business dealings pursued by St. Tammany Parish that occur outside of public knowledge.
3. Champagne is already working for the people.
Champagne formed The People, LLC along with Angela Alef in 2010 as a lobbying force in Baton Rouge. Their blog contains a list of legislative action influenced by The People, LLC (thepeoplellc.weebly.com).

The People, LLC

The People, LLC

At karenchampagneforparishpres.blogspot.com:
“I co-founded The People, LLC. This way, I could answer the question that most lawmakers wanted to know before they would speak to me. They would ask, Who are you with? I could then answer, The People.”
4. Champagne is responsive to the increasingly difficult situation of small business. From her campaign website: “I have first-hand knowledge of the endless regulations and the taxes and fees that go along with them; as well as, how they negatively affect a businesss ability to stay afloat, expand, or even get off the ground. The cycle of investing our tax dollars into businesses from outside of St. Tammany must stop and returning tax dollars to the homegrown business owners in the form of decreased regulation, reduced taxes and fees must start.” Karen Champagne
5. Champagne’s disillusionment with the action of the local Republican leadership is refreshing. While the concept of partisanship does an excellent job of maintaining a polarized voting base, it is increasingly clear that corruption is found rampant in both parties. In order to address the problems successfully, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians, Socialists, Greens and everything in between will need to work together in order to restore local and regional government to something more in line with what was originally intended, with Liberty and Justice For All People, regardless of familial relationship, socio-economic or corporate status.
Contact Timothy Gates: covweekly@gmail.com

Healthy Living Local Events Local News

DNR Public Hearing November 12th at Lakeshore High to Discuss Fracking Permit

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Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany Parish CCSTPConcerned Citizens of St. Tammany (CCST) and the Town of Abita Springs announce that the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR) will be holding a public hearing for the citizens of St. Tammany this November 12th, 5:00pm at Lakeshore High School off of HWY 1088 in Mandeville. The hearing will be regarding the Helis Oil & Gas application for a drilling permit 1 1/2 miles from Lakeshore High School involving the controversial hydro-fracturing or “fracking” method.

The request for a public hearing was made by attorneys representing CCST and the Town of Abita Springs. The meeting will be an opportunity for citizens to address their comments or concerns, and to hear comments from the community. A written public comment period through the LDNR will commence after the hearing. For more information, visit www.ccstp.org or www.fracking-101.webs.com.

Local Events Local News

CCST Announces LDNR Public Hearing on Fracking Permits Nov. 12th

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DNR Public Hearing On Fracking PermitsConcerned Citizens of St. Tammany (CCST) and the Town of Abita Springs announce that the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR) will be holding a public hearing for the citizens of St. Tammany this November 12th, 5:00pm at Lakeshore High School off of HWY 1088 in Mandeville. The hearing will be  regarding the Helis Oil & Gas application for a drilling permit 1 1/2 miles from Lakeshore High School involving the controversial hydro-fracturing or “fracking” method.
The request for a public hearing was made by attorneys representing CCST and the Town of Abita Springs.  The meeting will be an opportunity for citizens to address their comments or concerns, and to hear comments from the community. A written public comment period through the LDNR will commence after the hearing.
Some points from CCST and the Town of Abita: (1) Property for initial well is zoned residential and is designated wetlands, (2) violation of the St. Tammany Parish Code of Ordinances, and the STP Unified Code of Development (UDC) (3) a direct attack on the Federal, State, HRC Constitutions, whereby required to protect the Health, Safety, and Welfare of the citizens, (4) State Legislative Auditors send a scalding report regarding lack of oversight on wells operating and shut down in Louisiana, (5) 2.5+ million gallons of water required for each well, (6) toxic chemicals used in the process, which the drilling companies do not have to disclose.
For more information visit www.CCSTP.org.

Local News Opinion

Identifying Misinformation & Disinformation: Using Discernment In Determining Accuracy of Information

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by Timothy Achan Gates, Covington Weekly Correspondent

Recently, the controversial issue of hydraulic fracturing has spawned a public relations campaign to soften the issue. The initial response has been analyzed, and the current effort is to marginalize the opposition and present distorted information that minimalizes or eliminates the concerns addressed. Here are some examples of PR techniques applied.

An Example Of Misinformation In A Public Relations Campaign

The Helis Oil and Gas Company’s Facebook page, St. Tammany Energy Project, contains a post of an article from NPR titled “Rediscovering Natural Gas By Hitting Rock Bottom“. The article describes the process of hydraulic fracturing as a promising method of extracting gas from shale. Unfortunately for St. Tammany Energy Project, the article is dated from September 22, 2009. Examining what NPR is currently reporting on, as in the current year of 2014, will show that the pro-oil town Denton, Texas is considering a complete moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. This illustrates the use of misinformation simply by using older, outdated information from a reputable source, refuted by its own reporting years later.

An Example Of Disinformation In A Public Relations Campaign

“One hundred percent, fracking is safe,” declared Chris Faulkner, oil industry expert and CEO of Breitling Energy, on WWL TV. There is very little industry, much less fracking operations, that can truthfully be called 100% safe. Covington’s own Dr. Jay Saux, an oncologist based in St. Tammany Parish, issued a list of the 25 most toxic of more than 750 chemicals used in fracking fluid. A secondary list contains 34 toxic substances detected in water where fracking and shale development has occurred. Current reports indicate that oilfield deaths have risen with the proliferation of fracking, and well worker deaths have occurred simply from exposure to fracking fluids. This blatant example of disinformation is irresponsible to those concerned for their safety and the safety of their families. It is disrespectful to those who have been injured, lost lives or otherwise negatively effected by these operations, which are clearly not 100% safe.

Timothy Achan Gates is a local musician and writer. Contact by phone is 985-288-9609 or e-mail at codexproventus@gmail.com

Sources:

NPR.org – Why a Texas City May Ban Fracking

St. Tammany Dr. Jay Saux Commentary on Fracking

NPR.org – On-The-Job Deaths Spiking As Oil Drilling Quickly Expands 

Bloomberg.com – Oilfield Deaths Spur Safety Agency to Study Fracking

Cornell study – Hydrofracking Killing Farm Animals

Local News

Permits Pending to Withdraw Water from Scenic Rivers for Use in Fracking

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Sierra Club Foundation logoThe Sierra Club Louisiana Delta Chapter has generated a letter to be used as a model letter in addressing concerns to Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries, who have received various permit applications for withdrawal of water from our local rivers for use in hydraulic fracturing. Two of these permits, numbers 902 and 903 submitted by Comstock Resorces Inc., have a comment period deadline of this weekend, July 18th & 20th. The letter, which specifies these two permits, addresses concerns with water withdrawal and with possible contamination of waterways caused by hydraulic fracturing operation within the watershed of the river. Each permit is applying to withdraw 12,600,000 gallons of what is referred to as Outstanding National Resource Waters from the Tickfaw River (in Tangipahoa), a designated scenic river. Read more at: lasierraclub.org/node/180

 

Local Events

Fracking Bike Rally On The St. Tammany Trace – Covington To Abita & Back

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Frackstock Bike Rally Sierra ClubThe Sierra Club Delta Chapter will host a bike rally along the St. Tammany Trace for Louisiana residents concerned about fracking in their community. The ride will begin at Brooks’ Bike Shop in downtown Covington and will follow the scenic St. Tammany Parish Trace to the Abita Trailhead and back. Free bike rentals will be available in both Covington and Abita. The ride will conclude at the Covington Trailhead at 1 pm for the Frackstock concert! Email andy.zellinger@sierraclub.org for more information.

 

General Local News

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund – CCST Engages CELDF, Parish

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In the last two weeks, Covington Weekly has outlined the process of economic development in St. Tammany Parish, indicating an undemocratic and self-serving system established by bad legislation. Covington Weekly is thrilled to introduce an organization that may help with a solution to our problem. The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund operates on the principle that as a society, we are in the midst of an escalating ecological crisis as the result of decisions made by a relatively few people who run corporations and government. Sustainability will never be achieved by leaving those decisions in the hands of a few, both because of their belief in limitless economic production and because their decisions are made at a distance from the communities experiencing the impact of those decisions. Therefore, a right to local self-government must be asserted that places decisions affecting communities in the hands of those closest to the impacts. That right to local self-government must enable communities to reject unsustainable economic and environmental policies set by state and federal governments, and must enable communities to construct legal frameworks for charting a future towards sustainable energy production, sustainable land development, and sustainable water use, among others.

In doing so, communities must challenge and overturn legal doctrines that have been concocted to eliminate their right to self-government, including the doctrines of corporate constitutional rights, preemption, and limitations on local legislative authority. Inseparable from the right to local self government – and its sole limitation – are the rights of human and natural communities; they are the implicit and enumerated premises on which local self government must be built.

CELDF was formed in 1995 in Pennsylvania by Thomas Linzey, Executive Director, and Stacey Schmader, Administrative Director, to provide free and affordable legal services to community groups. Over the first few years, CELDF assisted hundreds of communities in Pennsylvania facing unwanted corporate development projects such as incinerators and quarries. CELDF assisted these communities to try to stop the projects by appealing corporate permit applications through the state’s environmental regulatory system. CELDF was very successful at appealing permits, finding the holes and omissions that would render them incomplete. As such, the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Environmental Hearing Board would toss out the permits, and the communities would celebrate their “victory,” believing the system of law had worked.

However, the corporation could and would simply file another permit, this time filling in the holes and omissions cited. Once the corporation filed an administratively complete permit application, the state was automatically required to approve it. The communities asked CELDF to appeal the permit again, but there was nothing left to do. The law in Pennsylvania, as in every other state, works the same way. The state legalizes an activity, such as mining, or commercial water withdrawals, or factory farming, and communities are legally prohibited from saying “no” to it.

After experiencing how the regulatory system operated over several years and watching communities lose time and time again, CELDF determined that they would need to take a different approach.

Beginning in 1998, they began to assist communities to draft legally binding laws in which they asserted their right to self-govern. Initially, the work focused on communities facing corporate factory farms and later the application of sewage sludge to farmland. Communities across Pennsylvania adopted their anti-corporate farming and anti-corporate sludging laws.

To accommodate the growing interest, with calls coming in from across the country, CELDF launched the Daniel Pennock Democracy Schools in 2003, which have become a critical tool in grassroots organizing. Communities facing other corporate threats, such as uranium mining in Virginia and commercial water withdrawals in New England, began to take on this work.

The Legal Defense Fund has now become the principal advisor to activists, community groups, and municipal governments struggling to transition from merely regulating corporate harms to stopping those harms by asserting local, democratic control directly over corporations. CELDF has taught nearly 200 Democracy Schools across the country and over 100 communities have adopted Legal Defense Fund-drafted ordinances.

The Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany Legal Team and CCST President Rick Franzo recently met with representatives of the Parish, including St. Tammany Parish attorneys, to discuss cooperating on legal efforts going forward. As of Monday, the Parish has filed a “Petition for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief,” demonstrating a positive direction by the newly hired attorneys. Another meeting is scheduled for Thursday, June 19. CCST is also proud to announce a partnership with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, considered to be a tremendous asset.

CELDF - Community Environment Legal Defense Fund

“Building sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature.”

www.celdf.org

Local News

Comment Period Reopened For LDEQ & USACE

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Louisiana state sealThe US Army Corps of Engineers and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality have reopened their public comment period on the permit application by Helis Oil & Gas for hydraulic fracturing near Mandeville. Both agencies are now taking comments until mid-night June 16th, 2014, under pressure of the Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany’s legal team.

Contact person for US Army Corps of Engineers: Robert Tewis phone: (504) 862-2041 email: robert.m.tewis2@usace.army.mil

Contact person for LDEQ: Elizabeth Johnson phone: (225) 219-3225 email: elizabeth.johnson@la.gov

For a full list of contacts for state representatives, check  house.louisiana.gov

 

Local Events Local News

Educational Meeting At St. John’s Regarding Fracking: Music, Information and Fellowship

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FrackFreeInfoMeetingSt.JohnsUnsure about fracking, or feel that you do not know enough to make an informed decision? A group of Covington citizens have organized this informative meeting to be a relaxed and peaceful opportunity for residents to learn more about hydrofracturing. Microbiologist and chemist Wilma Subra will be the keynote speaker. The night will be filled with music, coffee, food, drinks and productive discussion. Come by and bring a friend!

Local News

“Fracking” In St. Tammany Parish – Town Hall Meeting With Congressman Scalise

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Parish Councilman Jacob Groby organized an informal meeting to gather information about hydraulic fracturing (also coined “fracking”) on Monday May 12th at the Castine Center. The meeting was arranged due to concerns from citizens about the proposed drill on HWY 1088 in Mandeville by Helis Oil & Gas Co. While Helis declined the invitation to speak, Ms. Wilma Subra of the Subra Foundation gave an excellent presentation on the concerns of fracking. Hydraulic fracturing is a method of extracting natural gas from beneath the aquifer using water, sand and chemicals pumped at high pressure to ‘fracture’ the shale that encases these gases.

Congressman Steve Scalise will host a Town Hall Meeting at the Covington Trailhead at 419 N. New Hampshire Street on Thursday, May 15th from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. to be broadcast live on 99.5 WRNO. This is a very important meeting for our community, and the public is encouraged to attend. There is no compromise with regard to the health and safety of our citizens, or the preservation of our city and surrounding natural areas.

Local News

St. Tammany Parish Council Meeting To Discuss Fracking May 1st

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St. Tammany Parish Council Meeting Fracking“Fracking”, the topic that has been buzzing around St. Tammany Parish, will be on the agenda for the Parish Council Meeting this Thursday May 1, at 6 pm. Parish Councilman Jacob Groby of District 7 will be proposing some possible resolutions for both Parish and Citizens. Abita Springs Mayor Greg Lemons will also be holding a town meeting on the subject Thursday at 6 pm.  A Department of Natural Resources Meeting will be held May 13th, and the Department of Environmental Quality and Army Corps of Engineers are fielding comments from the public until May 4th. Contact information is listed below. If you have any opinion on this development it is strongly encouraged you contact your local Representatives and Parish Council members. Find your District and contact information on the Parish website, www.stpgov.org.

Contact the Army Corps of Engineers via Robert Tewis, Project Manager.
Please reference Permit Application Number: MVN-2013-02952-ETT
Robert.m.tewis2@usace.army.mil or (504) 862-2041

For the Department of Environmental Quality:
ATTN: Water Quality Division. Project Manager: Elizabeth Johnson
Phone: (225)219-3225  Reference WQC Application Number: WQC-140328-02