Mar 13, 2013 10:44 AM by AP
LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) - The state Department of Natural Resources has granted the first of three state permits for the proposed expansion of an underground natural gas storage operation in the salt dome under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish.
AGL Resources is proposing to scour out two new salt caverns for its Jefferson Island Storage & Hub facility, where two existing caverns have been used for gas storage since the 1990s.
The Advocate reports the proposed expansion has drawn opposition from residents living around the lake, several public officials in the area and environmental groups.
"We are going to continue to fight until the end," Save Lake Peigneur President Nara Crowley said Tuesday. "They shouldn't even think about granting a permit, based on what's going on in Assumption Parish and what we have going on in the lake."
Crowley and other opponents repeatedly have raised the issue of the large sinkhole in Assumption Parish that is tied to a collapsed salt cavern, arguing state regulators should take a close look at any new salt cavern storage permits.
They also said unexplained bubbling has been documented at Lake Peigneur in recent years.
Strange bubbling had been reported in the Bayou Corne area before the sinkhole developed there.
As recently as last month, agents with DNR traveled to Lake Peigneur to investigate reports of long lines of bubbles on the lake's surface but reached no conclusions on the cause.
The permit granted by DNR last week is for dredging work that needs to be done in order to bring equipment into Lake Peigneur for the expansion project.
AGL still needs two additional permits, one to scour out caverns in the salt dome and another to store natural gas in the new caverns.