People in the know, and even the local officials who inspired the legal fight, surely understood that Livingston Parish’s government was bound to lose when it imposed a moratorium on conducting seismic tests or building test wells in Lake Maurepas.
In Louisiana, state government has always jealously guarded its control of drilling, water bottoms and other facets of the oil and gas wealth that has been part of our economy for more than a century.
Air Products, a global hydrogen manufacturing company, sued Livingston Parish’s government in October for adopting a 12-month moratorium on Class V injection wells — which are used to inject nonhazardous materials underground — and “detonation of charges for seismic testing,” arguing that the moratorium clearly flew in the face of permits from state agencies to perform both in Lake Maurepas within the parish’s bounds.
U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick of Baton Rouge enjoined the moratorium, meaning Air Products’ carbon capture and sequestration project can continue as planned.
It’s almost certainly the right legal call, as even Livingston Parish officials conceded. Parish President Layton Ricks noted that Parish Attorney Chris Moody advised council members when they passed the moratorium that it likely would not hold up in court because of the state’s jurisdiction over the project.
While we believe, with Gov. John Bel Edwards and industry leaders, that carbon capture projects like that of Air Products are vital to the future lessening of CO2 emissions and thus a healthier climate, this ruling does not mean that local government cannot watch out for its constituents’ interests.
The Class V wells and seismic testing are exploratory. If the geology works out for this project, and others in the future, then a Class VI well permit from the state will be required to store carbon dioxide underground.
That’s a more rigorous process and one where local officials can provide a useful service by understanding, and if necessary questioning, the projects as they go forward. But with that goes the responsibility to explain to their constituents the facts about the projects, not just impose sweeping restrictions without regard to legal, or environmental, realities.