Yolanda Martinez Jul. 23, 2013, 7:21pm

DELCAMBRE – Environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against a state agency that provided a permit to a company to create two salt domes for natural gas storage in Lake Peigneur just outside of Delcambre.

The lawsuit comes in the aftermath of the Bayou Corne salt dome collapse last year in Assumption Parish that has turned into a 15-acre sinkhole, polluted area water aquifers and forced the evacuation of 350 residents, according to various news reports of the incident.

Members of Save Lake Peigneur and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) are attempting to stop Jefferson Island Storage & Hub from expanding its dredging operations in the lake by filing suit against the Department of Natural Resources.

The suit claims that the department failed to follow Coastal Management Guidelines when it approved Jefferson Island Storage & Hub’s dredging permit without first conducting environmental impact assessments or public safety analyses. The dredging permit would only allow Jefferson Island Storage & Hub to start excavating under the lake, but it is the first step in its Lake Peigneur expansion plan.

Jefferson Island Storage & Hub currently owns and operates two natural gas salt domes in the lake but it has plans to create two more. It is now waiting for the Injection and Mining Division of the Department of Natural Resources to approve permits to allow the drilling of brine extraction caverns, three disposable wells and permits for freshwater wells.

The Department of Natural Resources and Jefferson Island Storage & Hub claim that the lawsuit is premature, since the permits submitted to Injection and Mining have not been approved.

Nara Crowley of Save Lake Peigneur argues that it is not premature, since there is no doubt as to Injection and Mining's final decision. She argues that past approvals indicate that Jefferson Island Storage & Hub will have no problem getting all necessary permits approved.

“The state has not done due diligence for the people” Crowley said.

Save Lake Peigneur and LEAN have been trying for years to get environmental impact statements for Lake Peigneur, citing lake bubbling and foam as well as the recent sink hole at Bayou Corne caused by the collapse of a salt dome.

Don Briggs, President of the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association, said that Jefferson Island Storage & Hub has been “working hard for several years to be able to get the permit.” He finds it difficult to “believe the office of conservation broke its own rules” when it granted the permit.

A hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 5 to decide whether Save Lake Peigneur and LEAN can continue in their lawsuit against the dredging permit.

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