Letter: St. Tammany Parish should investigate drilling options

Apparently, St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister feels quite strongly that certain individuals are engaging in “false accusations, wild speculation, and outright lies,” and are making it “difficult to have an open debate” about the proposed Helis’ hydraulic fracturing project. Yet, curiously, she fails to provide evidence in support of her claim. It would help parish residents evaluate the merits of her concerns if Brister clearly identified the individuals she has in mind and described the specific behavior she finds so deeply objectionable.

Unless she goes on record in such a manner, it is reasonable to conclude that Brister is sidestepping legitimate concerns raised about Helis’ hydraulic fracturing project and her partiality.

Brister’s public comments suggest that she supports the drilling project.

It appears Brister believes the parish does not have a legal right to prevent it, and perhaps she believes its economic benefit would outweigh any potential environmental hazard the project might create. As parish president, this an altogether unfitting and premature response, especially in light of the potentially irreparable environmental harm the drilling project may cause to the St. Tammany Parish water supply.

Louisiana state law is weighted heavily in favor of Helis’ right to pursue its drilling project. Still, with the assistance of first-rate legal minds, St. Tammany Parish may still have compelling legal arguments to ban hydraulic fracturing in the parish. And in consideration of the mounting objective and well-documented evidence of serious environmental damage hydraulic fracturing has caused to the land, air, water and physical health of citizens in many communities throughout the country, Brister should feel obligated to investigate the parish’s panoply of legal rights and have serious concerns about the profound environmental and social consequences the Helis project may bring to St. Tammany Parish.

One also wishes that Brister would refrain from her penchant to treat Helis with fawning deference, as if perhaps Helis is doing the parish a favor. Like all corporations, Helis’ primary motivation is to earn money, but one fails to understand why Helis and the landowner’s right to earn money from Helis’ drilling project should be elevated above the right of parish residents to breathe clean air and drink clean water. There should be some ethical and moral limit on a corporation’s imperative to earn money, and Brister should do all in her power, as parish president, to recognize and enforce that limit.

Donald P. Lee

Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany’s Legal Committee

Mandeville