Oil company wants to lease 60,000 acres on Northshore for drill - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Oil company wants to lease 60,000 acres on Northshore for drilling

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ABITA SPRINGS, LA (WVUE) -

A company that wants to use the fracking technique to drill for oil on the Northshore, hopes to lease 60,000 acres of land to do so. But some residents and local leaders say they had no idea the scope of the project would be so big.

Abita Springs Mayor Greg Lemons says he's concerned. "This whole area just to the East of town could be oil wells," said Lemons.

Lemons knew about Helis Oil & Gas Company's bid to drill for oil on a 900-acre piece of land near Mandeville but says he had no idea the company wanted to expand the operation to 60,000 acres. "This surprised me. This is a game changer, too," said Lemons.

In a letter sent to area leaders, Helis President David Kerstein says the company acquired two separate oil and gas leases and options to lease from the Poitevent Interests and Abita Timber, together covering approximately 60,000 acres. The company would employ fracking, which uses hydraulic pressure to crack bedrock and free oil to rise to the surface. Chemicals are used in the process, and many residents say they worry about the health effects if there were to ever be a leak.

"Well this is just such a great community and we're all so health-conscious, and this is going to destroy the water supply," said Abita Springs resident Bridget Heno.

The commissioner of the state's Department of Natural Resources argues that fracking is safe.

Mayor Lemons admits there's a lot more information to be learned, so he's hosting a town hall meeting Thursday night to get everyone up to speed on the issue. "People have to make an informed decision to support it or not, and if you don't have the proper information, then you're making assumptions that you don't really have," explained Lemons.

As for the 60,000 acres that Helis wants to lease, a spokesperson for the company says if approved, not all of the acres would be used to drill for oil and that right now, only one unit on the 900-acre plot is up for consideration by the state.

But Abita Springs residents think it's only a matter of time before the company's operation expands. "It'll affect such a huge area," said Heno.

Resident John Preble adds, "I think if we don't stop it now, it'll be in everyone's back yard."

Next month the Department of Natural Resources will hold a hearing to determine if Helis Oil & Gas Company's request for the unit on the 900-acre piece of land will be approved.

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