Livingston council approves moratorium to stop data-collecting wells

The Livingston Parish Council’s fight to halt carbon capture projects in the area continued Thursday when the council approved a year-long moratorium on Class V injection wells.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a Class V well is used to inject non-hazardous fluids underground. Fluids are injected either into or above an underground source of drinking water.

The council voted 5-2 in favor of the moratorium after a long discussion that featured comments from both advocates and opponents of the projects.

Council members Jeff Ard, Maurice Keen, Gerald McMorris, Randy Delatte and Shane Mack voted “yes,” while Tracy Girlinghouse and Garry Talbert voted “no.” John Wascom and R.C. Harris were absent.

Talbert referenced a letter from the parish attorney suggesting it would be “illegal” for the parish to impose a ruling for Lake Maurepas, which is under the state’s jurisdiction.

“Are we gonna try to put a ban on seismic activities in Lake Maurepas?” Talbert asked, “Because basically, this letter says it’s illegal to do that.”

Delatte responded by saying the parish council could be sued, but it’s a chance he’s willing to take.

“The letter does say that state has jurisdiction over the bottom lines and that we could be sued individually,” Delatte said. “And we can also possibly be at fault if we slow it down or stop this project. That’s a chance that I’m willing to take. It’s a chance that we as elected officials should take to protect the citizens of our parish.”

The approved ordinance states: “It’s an ordinance to adopt a temporary 12-month moratorium regarding the construction and drilling of Class V injection wells and monitoring wells prohibiting any activities associated with Class V wells, where the well is specific to geologic testing of rock formation, monitoring, drilling or injecting of CO2 for long-term storage. This shall include the prohibition of all activities within Livingston Parish and the waterways herein including but not limited to detonation of charges for seismic testing, drilling, or injecting liquids into a Class V well within the parish of Livingston.”

Companies seeking to store CO2 underground utilize Class V wells to gather information on the area’s geologic makeup to determine if it is suitable for sequestration. Representatives for Air Products said that a Class V permit does not allow them to begin injecting CO2 underground but said it is a necessary step for acquiring the EPA’s Class VI permit.

Carbon capture and storage is a process that involves taking carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial sites and permanently storing them deep underground. Two sites are being proposed on the north and south ends of the parish.

Oxy Low Carbon Ventures plans to use the 30,000 acres of land north of Holden that was leased to the company, to sequester industrial CO2.

The other hub will be located on the south end of the parish underneath Lake Maurepas, one of three spots Pennsylvania-based company Air Products plans to store CO2 from a blue hydrogen energy complex in Ascension Parish.

Neither project is expected to begin CO2 injection before 2025.

The council approved a year-long moratorium on Class VI wells in September. Those wells are used to inject carbon dioxide into deep rock formations.

Andrew Connolly, the operations director for Air Products was present Thursday to give an overview of the project proposed for Lake Maurepas.

Connolly said the plan is to drill two Class V wells for the seismic testing in the lake. He said the data gathered from the testing is used to identify if CO2 injection in the area is safe.

He said the project would add 12 to 16 wells to the lake.

“These well platforms will be designed to enhance habitat, minimize visual impact, and they will be safely marked for boaters,” Connolly said. “Our efforts will protect the drinking water aquifer for many years to come. We’ve heard concerns there could be impact to fish and drinking water. CO2 sequestration can be done and has been done safely for over 50 years. With 30 locations, There’s been no impact to fish or water quality.”

Kinion Bankston, Livingston Parish resident and owner of Southern Boyz Outdoors, spoke in opposition to the potential projects.

“This is not a great project for Lake Maurepas,” he said. “There’s nothing in it for Livingston Parish. We have everything to lose in nothing to gain from this project.”

Rep. Sherman Mack, who has consistently voiced his opposition to the projects, said he is working on “trigger legislation” that would provide benefits to the parish should the project push through.

He advised the parish to pass the moratorium to give all involved more time to gather information.

“That trigger effect would be some type of either storage or deposit fee to be directed to the parish and directed to those communities that these wells are going to affect,” Mack said. “I’m against these projects. I’m gonna do everything I can do to stop it. Part of the reason why I’m trying to help you guys support this moratorium is to give me time, I don’t get to session till March. And so I’ve got to get there in March and perhaps do things that I need to do to try to vet this thing at the state level the way it probably should have been vetted.”

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