BATON ROUGE – An activist group says it will appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court after a circuit court ruled against it in a fracking case earlier this month.
Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany, along with St. Tammany Parish, had argued in the lower court that Helis Oil & Gas Company should not be allowed to drill a fracking well in the parish because it is zoned for residential use. The group and the parish had also argued that Louisiana Commissioner of Conservation James Welsh failed to take the parish’s master plan into account before issuing the drilling permit to Helis.
Fracking involves drilling deep into the ground and injecting a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals to release shale gas from difficult-to-reach rock. The practice has become controversial for several reasons. Opponents claim the process uses vast amounts of water. Other concerns include the release of possibly carcinogenic and toxic chemicals, an unsustainable dependence on fossil fuels, and the creation of unstable ground.
The 1st Circuit Court of Appeal upheld the lower court’s ruling on both counts.
Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany President Rick Franzo said his group was prepared for the appeals court’s decision.
“I think overall it was not a big surprise to us that we lost in the 1st Circuit,” he told the Louisiana Record.
Franzo said Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany is already looking forward to the next stage of the case, which is filing an application for a writ of certiorari and review with the state supreme court.
“We feel that’s where we have the best opportunity to win,” he said. “The (state) Supreme Court is very much involved in constitutional issues. We always felt from the beginning that the Supreme Court would be the place the decision had to be made.”
Franzo said it remains to be seen whether the parish will file its own appeal with the Supreme Court. So far, parish officials have not said whether they intend to appeal the circuit court’s decision. The parish will hold its next meeting on April 7. The appeal must be filed with the Supreme Court by April 8.
With or without the parish, however, Franzo said Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany will file its own appeal.
“It’s down to them to make the right decision,” he said. “I think it would be a bad reflection if they don’t finish the process. It’s just a matter of going through the court hearing and seeing what the Supreme Court ends up deciding.”
The fracking company’s drilling permit had been on hold after the parish issued a stop-work order last April while the case worked its way through the courts.