Attorneys for Helis Oil & Gas Co. have asked a state appeals court to fast-track a case that has placed the company’s planned St. Tammany Parish well on hold.
So far, the St. Tammany officials hoping to block the well haven’t had much luck in court. A judge decided in April that the parish could not use its zoning laws to scuttle the project. But last week, the same judge said his decision could be set aside while the parish appeals.
Work at the site, off of La. 1088 near Lakeshore High School, has been mostly shut down since then.
Tuesday’s motion asks the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal to shorten the time frame for briefs to be filed so that the company can get back to work as quickly as possible in the event the ruling goes in its favor.
“By obstructing drilling operations conducted under a state-issued permit, the parish has created an urgent situation,” the motion says.
Of the three other parties to the suit — Louisiana Commissioner of Conservation James Welsh, St. Tammany Parish and the activist group Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany — all but CCST have joined in the motion for an expedited filing schedule.
CCST refused, according to the motion, saying its attorneys need adequate time to prepare.
If the company gets its way, the last day to file briefs in the case will move from Sept. 17 to Aug. 31 and the court will schedule oral arguments “as soon as reasonably possible.”
The company has been trying for a year to get its St. Tammany well drilled. Since the plans became public in April 2014, a vigorous opposition has contested every step in Helis’ efforts.
Much of that opposition has centered on the company’s plan to use hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to extract the oil. The controversial process has been praised by proponents as fueling a boom in domestic energy production, but it is assailed by critics as environmentally risky.
Helis has faced at least three court challenges to its well plans and scored initial victories in two of them.
Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.