Helis Oil & Gas has been notified of Corps of Engineers approval of its 404 Wetlands Permit application for conduct of the company's planned vertical exploratory well in rural St. Tammany Parish. Issuance of this permit follows months of detailed project review by the Corps and extensive public comment regarding various environmental and operational aspects of Helis' plans. "Helis is pleased with the Corps' decision after such thoughtful and meticulous review. Helis has built specific environmental protections into the project that will ensure safe and clean operations protective of health and the environment and in full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. This process has been transparent, open and exhaustive. It has worked as it should have, with results we have anticipated for quite some time based upon the sound evidence presented in the administrative record," said David Kerstein, President of Helis Oil & Gas.
Kerstein added, "We are grateful to the many parish residents and business and civic organizations that have stood by their principles and acknowledged the value of oil and gas projects to our state and nation, and the meaningful economic benefits that will accrue locally as a result of this important energy project. Parish residents can be assured that we will honor our commitment to go above and beyond the already strict legal and regulatory requirements, employing the best available and safest technology, as detailed publicly nearly a year ago."
On June 4, 2015, Helis satisfied the compensatory mitigation requirements specified by the Corps for issuance of the permit by obtaining the required number of mitigation credits from an approved mitigation bank preserving wetlands in another area of St. Tammany Parish.
Helis will now move to implement its "over and above commitments" not normally required under existing regulations, including erection of sound baffles around the 3.2 acre well pad site, and placement of air monitoring, noise monitoring and groundwater monitoring systems and devices at the site and strategic locations in the area. Helis will also begin to improve the private road leading from Highway 1088 to the planned well site and begin the process preparing the ground where the well pad will be located.
In the several months leading up to the Corps' final permitting decision, Helis has proceeded with implementing other commitments made to parish officials, business and civic groups and residents, including hosting an initial training session for local First Responders to help them better understand oil and gas operations and Helis' emergency response plans, protocols and readiness. The company also took initial steps to begin the process of developing baseline groundwater quality in the area toward obtaining voluntary water quality samples from private water wells in the area in advance of planned drilling activities. In April approximately 30 parish emergency response personnel attended a day long training workshop hosted by Helis. Outreach to property owners in the area of the planned well pad began in March, landowners to have their private water wells sampled as part of the water quality baseline process.
"We are enthusiastic about taking these next steps toward drilling the exploratory well within the scope of our federal and state permits and in accordance with the highest standards in our industry. As a New Orleans-based company, we are especially pleased to be implementing this important project so close to home and, in fact, in a parish where many of our employees, vendors and contractors live and work," said Kerstein.