Gas drilling rig near Willowdale clears first hurdle

Residents worried about how drilling would effect neighborhood

The Coastal Zone Advisory Committee of St. Charles Parish offered no objection to one of many permits needed to commence drilling for natural gas near the Grand Ridge Golf Club in Luling.

Five residents of the Willowdale neighborhood, which sits adjacent to the golf course, came out to express their displeasure at the plans.

“We don’t see where it brings any value to our neighborhood,” Kenneth Davis said. “If they have an issue with a hookup over there, it’s going to release things into our neighborhood.”

Houston Energy LLP is the company behind the proposed drilling site. According to planners, the project will use directional drilling to access a suspected pocket of natural gas located in the Davis Pond Diversion.

Original plans had the drilling site across the levee near the 13th hole of the golf course. After community backlash, Houston Energy moved the proposed site to an area approximately 600 feet north of the golf course.

The board of managers for Grand Ridge Golf Club said it still categorically opposes the project.

Davis said his wife, Cheryl, has a petition bearing the signatures of 50 Willowdale residents who don’t want the drilling site near their neighborhood.

District II Councilman Billy Woodruff said he had received 12 calls opposing the project. He said he was concerned about Houston Energy’s first proposal, which called for the construction of a road along the top of a small levee bordering the Willowdale property.

“Whether I think it’s good or bad is irrelevant,” Woodruff said. “I have to do what the people want.”

Officials said getting the committee’s OK was one of four steps the company needs in order to begin drilling. The St. Charles Parish Council will soon take into account comments from the community along with the coastal committee’s recommendation.

If approved by the council, Houston Energy still requires the land to be re-zoned as open use in order to drill in accordance with St. Charles Parish law. The company will also need joint approval from the Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers since the drilling will occur in a wetland.

Houston Energy said it is “hopeful” that the natural gas site won’t require a compressor or a pump until the final months of its estimated three to five year run. Company representatives further asserted that this was a single project and not the beginning of continued efforts in the area.

One Willowdale resident, Ryan Lambertl, said he was worried about the traffic caused if the well produced oil instead of natural gas. Houston Energy officials said if it is a natural gas well, the condensate collected will only require one to two trucks daily, but that removal of oil might necessitate approximately four trucks per day.

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