Dec 11, 2009 11:00 AM by Associated Press
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The Louisiana Mineral and Energy Board says a natural gas company may double its storage caverns under Lake Peigneur - a plan many area residents strongly oppose.
AGL Resources Inc. of Atlanta must still get more than 20 permits before it can use fresh water to hollow out parts of the salt dome under the lake, where it already has two storage caverns.
Residents say they will keep fighting. "Now we are going to put on our boxing gloves, and we won't give up," said Nara Crowley, president of the citizens group Save Lake Peigneur.
Dana Grams, president of AGL's Jefferson Island Storage and Hub, said the agreement Wednesday resolved the lawsuit AGL filed against Louisiana after state officials stopped the project in 2006, saying AGL's lease to mine salt was invalid.
Area residents told the board they want an independent, in-depth environmental study of the proposed expansion. They question the safety of storing billions of cubic feet of natural gas so close to a populated area.
"There are other options for this company to take," said state Sen. Troy Hebert, D-Jeanerette. He told the mineral board that AGL should look for a less populated location.
At least two public hearings for permits will be held in the New Iberia area.
They may not be worth much - hearings in Iberia and Vermilion parishes over the past few years didn't prevent the mineral board's approval, Crowley said.
"It's a bunch of hogwash," Crowley said. "We have a total of over 1,900 statements from residents. That meant nothing. We have 23 letters from public officials. That meant nothing. Justice was not done."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)