Louisiana has denied a permit to an energy company seeking to use water from a state-designated scenic river for its drilling operations. The decision represents the first time in Louisiana’s history that a permit to draw water has been denied to a company intending to use water from a protected river for hydraulic fracturing.
Comstock Resources, Inc., a Texas company that operates hydraulic fracturing projects throughout the Gulf Coast, submitted its application in June of last year to pump 12.6 million gallons of water from the Amite River to operate a well in East Feliciana Parish, a region just north of Baton Rouge. Once used, the river water would have been disposed of as hazardous waste.
A number of local and national environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, spoke out against the project. After receiving public comments, the state’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which is charged with overseeing Louisiana’s Natural and Scenic River System, chose to deny the application, despite having issued five similar permits to companies since 2010. In fact, the agency had never before spurned an energy company’s application to draw water from the state’s protected bayous and rivers for hydraulic fracturing operations.
But there is reason to believe that the decision does not spell the end for drilling in Louisiana’s scenic water regions. In its notice of denial, the agency indicated that Comstock’s permit was rejected because two ponds located near the site of the wellhead could be used to satisfy the water needs of the project instead of water from the Amite. In other words, the company may still be able to drill using alternative water sources.
Environmentalists and energy developers must now wait to see how the state will proceed with respect to granting permits in protected rivers and bayous in the future. We will provide updates as this story develops.