The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled only the state government has the legal authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and refused to even hear legal objections from environmentalists.
The court held that an ordinance by the local government of St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana to prohibit fracking was preempted by state law. The court also found that the state government had the legal authority to grant fracking permits over the objections of local governments.
The ruling ends a two-year legal battle between a local environmental group and the company Helis Oil & Gas. Helis officials stated that it will begin exploratory drilling and fracking on the disputed well as soon as June 29.
“Helis is pleased that these legal proceedings have come to a logical and long expected conclusion and look forward to being responsible corporate neighbors and contributors to the parish’s quality of life,” Greg Beuerman, a spokesman for Helis, told The Times-Picayune.
The oil and gas industry has historically been regulated by the state, not local, government across much of America. The industry worried that local rulings could create a regulatory “patchwork,” which could hamper energy development in Colorado. Several environmental groups, including Food and Water Watch, The Sierra Club and Earthworks have supported local bans on fracking for precisely this reason.
Judges have been universally hostile to this environmental legal theory. Colorado’s Supreme Court struck down local fracking bans in early May and a federal judge did the same thing in West Virginia in mid-June.
The environmental group claimed that fracking could contaminate a local aquifer that supplies a nearby parish’s drinking water, which could harm property values. Fracking has been repeatedly proven to not contaminate drinking water by regulatory bodies, academics and even the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.) Other academic studies have found that owning a home close to a fracking site actually adds $30,000 to its property value. Enviromental groups have responded to these studies with total denial.
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