LIVINGSTON, La. (AP) — A south Louisiana parish cannot enforce a moratorium blocking a global gas supply company from conducting seismic tests or building test wells in Lake Maurepas, a federal judge has ruled.
Air Products sued Livingston Parish’s government in October for adopting a 12-month moratorium on Class V injection wells, which are used to inject non-hazardous materials underground, and “detonation of charges for seismic testing,” even though it had received permits from the state to perform both in the lake, The Advocate reported.
U. S. District Judge Shelly Dick of the Middle District Court of Louisiana ruled Dec. 26 in favor of a motion for a preliminary injunction against the moratorium and denied Livingston Parish’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, giving the company the go-ahead to continue the project as planned.
Air Products plans to open a $4.5 billion hydrogen manufacturing complex in Ascension Parish by 2026 that would store its carbon output a mile beneath Lake Maurepas. State officials and industry experts have welcomed carbon capture and sequestration projects as a means of meeting net-zero carbon emissions goals.
In order to obtain the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency permits necessary to complete the project, the company must take preliminary measurements of the subsurface through seismic surveys and Class V injection wells. Seismic testing in the lake began in December and will run through the spring. The two Class V injection wells slated for this project will be built within the bounds of Livingston and St. John parishes to collect geotechnical data for the company.
Art George, Air Product’s communications director, said the company is pleased with the judge’s ruling.
“We remain committed to continuing to share information with all local parish councils, elected and regulatory officials and local residents about Air Products’ clean energy project and its environmental and economic benefits, and employment opportunities,” he said.
Livingston councilmembers originally passed the moratorium so they could have more time to research and regulate carbon sequestration projects to ensure residents’ safety.
Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks said the judge’s ruling was expected, noting Parish Attorney Chris Moody advised the council when it passed the moratorium that it likely would not hold up in court because of the state’s jurisdiction over the project.
The project has been the subject of controversy for most of 2022. Initial protests centered on the company obtaining an operating agreement with state agencies amid Hurricane Ida’s devastation, which many in Livingston, Tangipahoa and other surrounding parishes say caused them not to have the proper chance to object to the project’s approval.
Opponents also expressed fears on how carbon capture and sequestration could affect Lake Maurepas’ plethora of wildlife and its recreational boating industry.
Air Products has tried to address those concerns through ongoing public informational meetings, weekly project updates via social media and seismic test demonstrations.
“This project is critical to Louisiana’s clean energy transition and creating and preserving jobs in the state as it makes the transition from traditional energy sources to cleaner ones,” George said. “Air Products is committed to being a safe, transparent, and responsible community partner in all things: our operations, our communications and our business.”
Ricks told The Advocate on Tuesday that he needs to speak with Moody about plans moving forward regarding the lawsuit.