- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 23, 2015

COVINGTON, La. (AP) - On the heels of Helis Oil & Gas Co. starting construction on its St. Tammany Parish oil well last week, an environmental group has launched a new effort to curtail the project.

The New Orleans Advocate (https://bit.ly/1FyGUC2) reported Tuesday that Preserve St. Tammany plans to ask the Parish Council to put a referendum before voters on whether to require an industrial impact bond for large projects.

Preserve St. Tammany spokesman Mike Stagg said that if the referendum passes, any company that wants to undertake heavy industrial development in the parish must pay for a bond to help defray the cost of any damage.

The well being dug now is “Helis No. 1,” Stagg said. “We don’t want Helis No. 2, or No. 10 or 55. That’s what we are about.”

A Helis spokesman said the company would not take a position on the bond effort.

Stagg says the goal of the bonds would be to drive up the cost of business to deter companies from drilling fracking wells in the parish, Stagg told several dozen people at a meeting in Abita Springs. Fracking opponents say the process of extracting oil from rock by injecting high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals is environmentally hazardous.

The group also plans a petition drive to pressure the council as well as a public education campaign. Monday night’s meeting was meant to drum up support for the campaign, which has a limited amount of time: A ballot measure would have to be submitted to the state by Aug. 11, Stagg told the crowd. If they aren’t able to get a referendum into the Oct. 24 election, they will try to get it on the Nov. 21 ballot, he added.

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Information from: The New Orleans Advocate, https://www.neworleansadvocate.com


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