Liberty residents have no complaints on fracking - News, Weather & Sports

Liberty, Mississippi residents say when it comes to fracking, no complaints

There have been tens of thousands of fracking wells drilled in the U.S. over the past 50 years, many within 100 miles of New Orleans.

As the debate rages over fracking in St. Tammany, rigs are being drilled just across the border in Mississippi. Here, officials say service companies are moving in and sales taxes are up.

In Liberty Mississippi, population 716, and just across the border from Kentwood, Louisiana, the surrounding forest has become a hotbed for fracking wells in the Tuscaloosa shale formation.

"So far, it's been a productive area," said Kelly Guilbert with Encana Oil.

Carved out of the woods about 5 miles west of Liberty, Encana Oil of Canada has hit it big. They've drilled ten wells and operate five more, and haven't missed yet.

"All of them have been productive, absolutely," said Encana spokeswoman Kelly Guilbert.

The area is about 90 miles from St. Tammany where opposition to fracking has been loud. In Liberty, there's been barely a whimper.

"I have heard of people experiencing problems with it, but not around here," said Tina Rape from Liberty.

The Encana rig nearest town has now been drilled to about 11,000 feet.

The nearly 30 people who work there have begun running pipe horizontally into Tuscaloosa shale formation. It's about 500 feet in depth, well below the aquifer, stretching across much of south Louisiana and Mississippi.

"Currently, this well is drilling, building the curve. They are down 12,000 feet, then they will go out horizontally another 7,000 to 8,000 feet," said Guilbert.

There are three stages. First comes the drill rig which goes down to 12-thousand feet, then special fracking equipment is brought in to the actual hydraulic fracturing. Third, the well goes into production.

To maximize production and help recover the multi-million dollar drilling cost, two holes have been drilled on this site.

"If you have more wells on one pad, the more feasible it is," said Jude Cormier with Encana.

And Encana officials insists the process is safe. They say the holes will be fully encased and plugged with cement after production to protect freshwater aquifers that are the source of drinking water.

"The EPA has spoken out and found no case where fracking has resulted in contamination of drinking water supply," said Encana's Doug Hock.

Near Liberty, the biggest complaint is more truck traffic.

"Some days it's a lot - hundreds, it seems like hundreds," said Tina Rape.

But many hope that traffic will bring in more royalty money once the wells begin producing.

While all of the Encana company wells have hit along the Mississippi border, Helis Oil, which has proposed drilling in St. Tammany, gives it's chances of success there to be around 50-50.

Right now, Helis's proposal is awaiting approval from the Louisiana department of natural resources.

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