St. Tammany council seeks lawyer to advise on fracking proposal - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

St. Tammany council seeks lawyer to advise on fracking proposal

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MANDEVILLE, LA (WVUE) -

A proposed fracking operation on the north shore has prompted debate.

St. Tammany Parish Council members say they're keeping an open mind about the fracking process, but most who attended Thursday's meeting already had their minds set.

"Abita is known for its water," said resident Amanda Fisher. "It's known for its wells and beauty. I'm not asking you to delay. Fight for us with everything you have."

The next step for the parish will be to hire legal counsel.

Council member Jacob Groby has water management experience. He said he wants a lawyer to help him understand, for example, whether the parish would have the right to monitor and test water around the drilling site once hydraulic fracturing begins.

Most people at the meeting indicated with signs and applause that they don't want the process to get that far - or even to enter St. Tammany at all.

Rick Franzo with Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany believes there are ways – using zoning laws and parish rights – to keep fracking out of the parish, even if the state Department of Natural Resources approves a fracking permit in the proposed area of Abita Springs.

"Local government supersedes or trumps state government when it comes to health and safety issues," Franzo said.

The council is up against a short deadline. The state is scheduled to consider a gas company's request for the proposed area of Abita Springs on May 13. The approval for a fracking permit would come a bit later, but it's why the parish voted to hire a lawyer soon.

There's a temporary $25,000 cap on spending for legal services until more money can be allocated without pushing the parish over budget.

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