Salt dome bills considered

The Louisiana Senate on Tuesday rejected legislation aimed at stopping expansion of salt dome storage activity at Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish.

While 15 senators voted for the measure, 20 voted against it.

House Bill 200 would have banned the state Commissioner of Conservation from issuing permits for storage of natural gas, crude oil and any other materials where salt rock underlying a state-owned water bottom has structurally failed because of human error.

Only Lake Peigneur fit the description. A drill rig pushed through the top of the salt mine there in 1980 opening a hole that drained the water body.

Bill sponsor state Sen. Fred Mills, R-St. Martinville, asked his Senate colleagues to help his constituents who don’t want to see another Lake Peigneur. He said there are two underground caverns there today “each the size of the Twin Towers” which a firm wants to expand.

“In the light of what happened at Bayou Corne, what’s happening here with bubbling happening and the issue we are having with foam it makes sense,” said Mills.

The Senate endorsed and sent to the House legislation that would slap major fines on any person violating requirements, rules or regulations related to the drilling or use of underground caverns. Bill sponsor state Sen. Rick Ward, D-Maringouin, said the legislation was prompted by the on-going Bayou Corne incident.

Under Senate Bill 139, future violators would be subject to civil penalties of cost to the state for any response necessary as well as a fine of up to $32,000 a day of the violation.

Intentional, willfull or knowing violators causing major environmental damage or endangers lives would be subject to an additional penalty of not more than $1 million.