ST. TAMMANY PARISH, LA (WVUE) - Opponents of fracking in St Tammany are contemplating new legal action, now that the Army Corps of Engineers has granted a key permit, to a company that wants to frack for oil north of Mandeville.
But Helis Oil says they are undeterred, and the way is now clear for them to immediately begin site prep work.
It was the decision Helis was waiting for.
"We're pleased with the Corp's decision. It's something we expected for a long time," said Helis spokesman, Greg Beuerman.
For over a year now, Helis waited for the Army Corps of Engineers to grant it's request to drill an exploratory vertical well, to 13,000 feet, at a site near Lakeshore High School. Now, it's full steam ahead.
"We are starting this week to erect noise and air monitoring equipment, so the community can be sure that the promises we made will be kept," Beuerman said.
Helis says it should have a drilling rig on site within 45 days, but opponents say hold on.
"I'm pushing it all the way to the legislature," said Abita Springs mayor Greg Lemons, whose city has so far unsuccessfully sued to try and block the project.
Lemons, says the proposal is a bad deal, for a number of reasons.
"Our wetlands are precious to the state, we have some of the most pristine marshes in the world," Lemons said.
He, the parish and the activist group 'Concerned Citizens of St Tammany' may file a new appeal, to try and block a project, that so far has been upheld in court, in spite of local zoning prohibiting drilling.
"We believe it's a constitutional violation, zoning should matter," said Rick Franzo with 'Concerned Citizens.'
Beuerman counters, "We can't speculate as to what they might do certainly they have options, none of which will stop this project from moving forward as it should."
Opponents say it's a critical issue, if local zoning can't control fracking here, they say it can happen just about anywhere.
"They could put a well next to the capitol building in Baton Rouge," Lemons said.
Opponents also say the state makes no money until the well is paid for.
"We've done our 'frackonomics' homework, and the gravy train is not there, for the first three years there's no benefit to the state," Franzo said.
Helis insists the project will provide economic benefits. And the company says it's taking extra steps to make the project more palatable, but no decision has been made on whether to frack.
"We'll take samples, pull out, analyze it, and make a decision as to whether we will permit the hydraulic fracturing permit," Beuerman said.
Unless a higher court steps in, Helis's project is moving forward.
Helis says it should drill to a depth of 13,000 feet within 45 days. They say in spite of groundwater concerns, the water table will be safe, as it has been for fifty other wells that have been drilled in St Tammany Parish.
Helis has 60,000 acres under lease in St Tammany Parish for future potential drilling.