Lawyers to help St. Tammany Parish Council in fight over fracking

ST. TAMMANY PARISH, LA (WVUE) - Two big decisions were made Thursday evening in the controversial fight over fracking on the North Shore.

Council members showed strong opposition to the issue. Now, St. Tammany will hire lawyers to help them try to prevent it.

Lawyers will question the constitutionality of the state process to allow fracking. They will fight on behalf of local zoning laws and provide oil and gas expertise. Those in attendance Thursday overwhelmingly agreed with council's decision to fight the state if necessary.

Council members say they have a new reason to be suspicious of the state's drilling oversight process. An audit has found that the Office of Conservation and Department of Natural Resources is not always effectively regulating oil and gas operators making sure they comply with regulations. The audit also finds that they're not always managing abandoned wells.

Council member Jacob Groby, who is leading much of the effort to at least slow the fracking process, questions if the state could even handle another well.

"What we're trying to do is simply say, 'hey guys, hold on. People are asking you authorize a permit and based on this report, you're not watching the ones you've got,'" said Groby.

Spokesperson Patrick Courreges from the Department of Natural Resources states:

"These newer wells are brought into the system under modern rules… that require greater protections for the environment and the public that require greater protections for the environment and the public."

Council is also making precautions in case they cannot prevent the state from allowing fracking. They voted to prepare their Environmental Department with the tools and expertise necessary to monitor drinking wells in case of any fracking contamination down the road.

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