Bayou Corne residents disheartened by Texas Brine legal battle with the state

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POSTED: Friday, January 4, 2013 - 10:55pm

UPDATED: Friday, January 4, 2013 - 11:17pm

Residents in Bayou Corne are spoke Friday after reports Texas Brine is taking the state to court. The company filed a petition of injunction against the state of Louisiana in district court at the end of December. The company wants a judge to ensure a new order from the state doesn't get enforced.

People living in the effected area said the move is just another of Texas Brine's stall tactics.

At issue is a December 7th order from the Commissioner of Conservation James Welsh called the Fifth Amendment to the Emergency Order. It requires the company to take more action to protect people living in the area including to drill 2 new 6,000 feet deep wells for monitoring equipment. The equipment would be used to check out what's going on underneath a failed brine cavern in Bayou Corne.

Kenny Simoneaux's said he's tired of living in a camper trailer waiting for something to turn around, so he can go back to Bayou Corne.

"It's going to postpone us being able to get on with our lives," Simoneaux stated. "It's all about postpone postpone. Let us wait and see. They've been observing this thing for five months."
Simoneaux was not surprised by the brine company's decision to take legal action. He believes the company doesn't have the community's best interest at heart.

"If they had taken a little bit of initiative," He explained. "If they'd been out of their homes maybe they'd have done it on their own without being directed to do it."

The company stated in the petition for injunction the commissioner of conservation didn't give the company any heads up they'd have to add new wells before they released the emergency order.

Residents said they trust the state's order to drill.

"I mean we got to believe what those folks are saying," Dennis Landry, Bayou Corne resident and business owner, said. "If they think these wells need to be drilled, I mean my thinking is well that must be what needs to be done."

Spokesman for the company told NBC33 the new well's aren't the most effective way to get information, and the deadline to drill is unrealistic. instead they want to use different monitoring methods that would be "less risky" for workers safety.

"From the beginning, our approach to the response has been guided by facts and science and the need for proper engineering to ensure safe and effective actions. To date, there has not been a single injury as a result of the incident or subsequent response activities and TBC is committed to making sure that remains the case. Texas Brine continues to pursue less risky and less invasive actions including Vertical Seismic Profiling (VSP) and 3D Seismic Study in order to get the information necessary to make informed decisions," Sonny Cranch, spokesman for Texas Brine, explained.

Court documents [provide below] show Texas Brine as listing the Commissioner did not have the proper authority to require the company to drill on deadline because there was no immediate risk to the Bayou Corne community.

Patrick Courreges, with the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, the agency which runs the office of conservation released a statement Friday afternoon responding to the Texas Brines claim.

Courreges's statement read:

"Ample evidence of has been made publicly available establishing the status of the ongoing situation in the Bayou Corne area as an emergency, representing both an ongoing and imminent threat to public safety and the environment due to the unexpected formation and continued growth of the sinkhole caused by the failure of Texas Brine's cavern, ongoing subsidence in the area around the sinkhole, natural gas bubbling to surface through the sinkhole and nearby water bodies, and confirmation of ongoing natural gas presence both in the aquifer and in shallower underground strata in and around the Bayou Corne community. The Office of Conservation is not alone in the assessment, as Assumption Parish officials and the Governor's Office have also issued emergency declarations that are still in effect. Given the evidence developed to date and the substantial remaining uncertainty about the current status of the collapse zone, the means by which natural gas is making its way to and through the aquifer, and the size and structure of the source reservoir for that natural gas, the Office of Conservation cannot simply assume the safety of the public and the environment, but must direct action to most accurately assess the situation and provide for a response that assures that safety."

Some people in the Bayou Corne community like Dennis Landry hoped after an emotionally charge public meeting in December, Texas Brine would change. Now his faith is shaken.

"Unfortunately this legal action recently taken throws that all out the window makes you wander what's really going on," Landry stated.

Cranch released a statement explaining: "Our petition will have absolutely no impact on current operations in response to the sinkhole or Texas Brine Company's continued financial support for those residents of the evacuated area. Texas Brine remains committed to responding to this incident and mitigating any additional impact to the environment."

People living in the affected area said the legal battle between the state and Texas Brine will make their wait to return home even longer.

Simoneaux is outraged. "They're playing a game of ping pong and we are stuck in the middle, and I really wouldn't mind getting on with my life."

Petition for Injunctive Relief filed copy.pdf1.38 MB

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