MANDEVILLE, La. (WGNO) – A day after hundreds of concerned residents and political leaders rallied against a proposed oil drilling operation in St. Tammany, Helis Oil & Gas has offered an alternative proposal, which includes a phased approach to the project.
The Helis proposal, agreed to by the Parish, calls for the company to proceed with drilling a conventional vertical well in the near term, instead of proceeding with plans to drill both vertically and horizontally for fracturing during the summer.
Helis will drill a 13,000 feet well off Log Cabin Road, between I-12 and Highway 1088, to obtain data and samples. Those findings will then be reviewed over the next 3-4 months.
If the findings indicate that commercially viable quantities of oil are present, Helis will then revert back to their original plan, to conduct horizontal drilling and utilize the hydraulic fracturing method to extract oil from the project. But if the data gathered does not support additional investment, the company anticipates that it would plug the well in accord with state regulations, and abandon the project.
“This is a logical decision by Mr. Kerstein and Helis to postpone the original plans until they are certain they have a viable project,” said St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister. “We have been working with Helis to find common sense solutions to complicated problems. This change will give us months of more time to resolve remaining differences that may exist, and prepare before any horizontal drilling could be conducted, or potentially not see fracking at all.”
With this agreement, Parish government will continue to study the project and consider new policy for the potential of future drilling.
On Monday, neighbors said Helis had failed to meet with them or address any of their concerns; one being that the well could lead to tremors in the area or threaten the water supply.
A public hearing in Baton Rouge with the Louisiana Office of Conservation, which was originally set for this week, has been postponed until June.