In keeping with recent moves across the country to chip away at local control over fracking operations, a Louisiana state judge ruled Monday that St. Tammany Parish, located on the northern shore of Lake Pontchartrain, cannot use its zoning regulations to block a proposed oil drilling and fracking project within parish borders.
Helis Oil & Gas Co., of New Orleans, wants to drill a 13,000-foot-deep exploratory well on undeveloped land it has under lease just north of the city of Mandeville. If the well data is promising, the company would then seek state and federal approval to drill horizontally and extract oil by fracking.
In his ruling, Judge William Morvant of the 19th Judicial District in Baton Rouge said energy permitting is the sole province of state authorities, and that any attempt by the parish to interfere with Helis’ permits would be unconstitutional.
The state’s pre-emption doctrine, Morvant reportedly said, “expressly forbids St. Tammany Parish from interfering or prohibiting the drilling of a well.”
Louisiana’s Times-Picayune newspaper called the development “a major defeat” for fracking opponents, who have raised concerns about the projects implications for the environment and public health.
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