In mid-April, word started spreading like wildfire among Louisiana residents: Helis Oil & Gas LLC wants to drill a well in search of oil and gas on a 960-acre tract of land about 30 miles from New Orleans, in the Mandeville area.
Helis plans to use hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to extract oil and gas from the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale (PDF), which holds an estimated 7 billion barrels of oil beneath the Southern Hills aquifer, which extends from St.Tammany to beyond Baton Rouge and well into Mississippi.
On April 16, residents packed a meeting, expressing fear and outrage about the proposed drilling. Right away, they learned two things: firstly, that they’re up against Louisiana's strong laws protecting the oil and gas industry. And secondly, that there’s no time to waste.
On May 13, the Department of Natural Resources’ office of conservation, which regulates oil and gas drilling in Louisiana, will hold a hearing to consider issuing a unit permit — the first step in the permitting process.
Rep. Tim Burns, R-Mandeville, asked to delay the permitting process, but was denied.
“There is no legal provision to take the scheduled hearing off the docket,” Patrick Courreges, communications director for the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, told DeSmogBlog.
As for what could prevent the permit from being issued, the short answer, according to Courreges, is geology, not the public's concerns about fracking.