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Oil company stops fracking after over two years of debates, hearings on environmental damage


(NaturalNews) In 2014, the term "fracking" was unfamiliar to many residents of St. Tammany Parish. But, over the last two and a half years, the oil drilling project planned for the parish has gained enough notoriety that it's now a household word.

Helis Oil & Gas Co.'s fracking project has been the subject of great controversy basically ever since its plans for drilling and hydraulic fracturing became public knowledge. These last two years or so have been incredibly tumultuous, filled with courtroom disputes and emotional public hearings. Many people who opposed the project, fearing it would create irreparable damage to the North Shore's beautiful environment, expressed a mix of anger and tearful despair.

After two and a half years of battling it out, this weight hanging on the shoulders of the St. Tammany community has finally been lifted. On September 20th, Helis announced that they would be abandoning their fracking project. The ABC affiliate WGNO reports that the oil company has cited "a lack of commercial viability" as one of the primary reasons for ending their drilling efforts. The Times-Picayune reports that while Helis did find oil at the drill site, there simply wasn't enough of it to be considered a worthy investment.

While this is great news for St. Tammany, it is sad that the only reason this turmoil has ended is because the site lacked the ability to provide financial gains for Helis, rather than because of the huge community uproar. You see, Helis had hoped to find a large enough amount of oil to sustain the company long-term. And as spokesman Greg Beuerman said, "This particular lease did not hold those qualities." So, ultimately, the company decided to cease the operation rather than spend another $8 million or so on drilling for the minute amount of oil they would likely find.

Regardless of why the decision was finally made, the people of St. Tammany are very pleased with the outcome. Parish Councilman Jake Groby, who strongly opposed the drilling project told The Times, "I'm having a great morning. I think it's very good news for the citizens of St. Tammany who were concerned about their water quality, their land quality and air quality." Groby notes that Helis could never have guaranteed that there would be no industrial accidents, which would have been catastrophic for the community and surrounding environment.

One of the biggest concerns was the drill site's proximity to a local school. St. Tammany Parish and the Concerned Citizens group tried to block Helis with their zoning regulations – the drill site was actually zoned for residential use. However, in an unsurprising turn of events, the Louisiana district court in Baton Rouge chose to side with Helis instead of their own people. According to the court, state laws trump local zoning laws, which led to the state Supreme Court declining to take up the case. This is the kind of thing we should be fighting, rather than fighting each other. How can a state say local governments do not have the right to protest and fight against things like this? What right does an oil company have to set up shop next to a high school? Those kids have rights, too – the right to not be subjected to a toxin-filled environment while they're at school!

Local governments and communities should have the right to protect their children. Fracking is known to contaminate drinking water; studies by the EPA itself recently confirmed that. Kids should at least have access to clean water when they are at school – there's no excuse for the state's decision to stand by Big Oil in this matter.

Parish President Pat Brister released a statement thanking Helis for being responsible and respectful throughout the two-year ordeal.

Brister also poignantly commented, "Unfortunately, it cost the taxpayers several hundred thousand dollars in legal bills to confirm that the oil exploration permitting process is, and will continue to be, a state issue. If there are groups that want to stop oil exploration in our state, they must begin the process to change laws through the State Legislature."




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