Anti-fracking sentiment has been brewing in Abita Springs for the better part of this year, and it shows no signs of abating.
In the latest development, the town has withdrawn from the St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce, with Mayor Greg Lemons chiding the organization in a letter for supporting the oil and gas industry.
Lemons was referring to a recent statement from GNO, Inc., in which a number of regional business groups announced their support of oil and gas exploration and production, including the fracking project proposed in St. Tammany Parish by Helis Oil & Gas.
“The expression that you have confidence that ‘strong state and local oversight’ can ensure that the industry meets its responsibility leads the reader to believe that you have an expectation that there will be strong state and local oversight,” Lemons wrote in a letter dated Nov. 14.
Lemons then referred to a report by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor that criticized state authorities for not properly inspecting and regulating wells.
“While everyone understands the objective of the chamber is to promote commerce, your decision to support this regional letter does not appear to have taken into consideration the finer nuances of what a support for hydraulic fracturing can have on the economy of this area,” Lemons wrote. “The Town of Abita Springs is withdrawing its membership from the ST. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce.”
The Town of Abita Springs passed an anti-fracking resolution in the spring, not long after Helis unveiled its plans.
This fall, the town requested that the Department of Natural Resources hold a public hearing on Helis’ drilling permit. At the hearing, Lemons delivered an urgent plea for DNR to deny the permit.
The public comment period for Helis’ drilling permit will end at 5 p.m. Wednesday. Public comment on a separate wetlands permit application before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ended Friday. That application is still under review.
Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter @faimon.