- Associated Press - Friday, December 26, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Helis Oil & Gas Co., which received a permit from the state last week to drill a vertical well as a first step toward fracking in St. Tammany Parish, is now working to get a wetlands permit.

The permit is needed to place a drilling pad on a 3.2-acre site that is 91 percent wetlands.

Earlier this month, the Army Corps of Engineers, which would grant the wetlands permit, sent two letters to the company asking it to address concerns about the project.

Greg Beuerman, a spokesman for Helis, said the project manager told him the response is undergoing a final review and will be sent to the agency very soon.

The Corps’ first letter, dated Dec. 2, asked Helis to respond to several concerns about the controversial project that were brought up in public comments on the wetlands permit application. The second letter, dated Dec. 4, restated concerns that had been raised by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and also raised a new issue: whether Helis has adequate contingency plans in place for a major storm that causes flooding in the area, such as Hurricane Isaac in 2012.

The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/1xUayUv ) opponents of fracking are hopeful that acquiring the wetlands permit will prove an insurmountable obstacle to the project.

The state Office of Conservation put a number of conditions on the permit that it granted to drill the 13,000-foot vertical well, but Beuerman said none of them came as a surprise to Helis. The company already had indicated it was willing to take the steps the state is requiring, he said.

“The department felt that they wanted to memorialize that in the permit, and we get it,” he said.

Those conditions include using only surface water in privately owned ponds for the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process, which involves injecting water, sand and other chemicals at high pressure into a horizontal shaft to create fissures in rocks, through which oil or gas can be pulled to the surface.

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Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

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