A judgement against Livingston Parish says carbon capture pre-events can continue.

A federal judge has ruled that Livingston Parish cannot enforce a moratorium preventing a global gas supply company from conducting seismic tests or building test wells in Lake Maurepas. Air Products, a global hydrogen manufacturing company, sued Livingston Parish’s government in October for adopting a 12-month moratorium on Class V injection wells — which are used to inject non-hazardous materials underground — and “detonation of charges for seismic testing,” a moratorium adopted despite the company having received permits from state agencies to perform both in Lake Maurepas within the parish’s bounds. Judge Shelly Dick of the Middle District Court of Louisiana ruled Dec. 26 in favor of a motion for a preliminary injunction against the moratorium and denied a motion from Livingston to dismiss the lawsuit, meaning Air Products’ carbon capture and sequestration project can continue as planned. “We are pleased with the ruling, and we remain committed to continuing to share information with all local parish councils, elected and regulatory officials and local residents about Air Products’ clean energy project and its environmental and economic benefits, and employment opportunities,” said Art George, Air Products’ communications director.

The delay was to learn more and protect the residents.

Livingston councilmembers originally passed the moratorium so they could have more time to research and regulate carbon sequestration projects to ensure the residents’ safety. Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks said this legal outcome was expected, noting Parish Attorney Chris Moody advised the council when they passed the moratorium that it likely would not hold up in court because of the state’s jurisdiction over the project. Ricks called the moratorium an “exercise in futility,” adding that “we took that as far as we probably could knowing up front that they were probably going to rule against us on it.” Councilman Tracy Girlinghouse, who was one of two to vote against the moratorium, echoed Ricks’ sentiment. “I just thought it was way too big of a bite,” Girlinghouse said. “I’m not surprised at all by the outcome.”

The parish was fighting against many who want carbon capture all up to the governor.

Air Products plans to open a $4.5-billion hydrogen manufacturing complex in Ascension Parish by 2026 that would store its carbon output a mile beneath Lake Maurepas. State officials and industry experts alike have welcomed carbon capture and sequestration projects as a means of meeting net-zero carbon emissions goals. In order to obtain the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency permits necessary to complete the project, the company must take preliminary measurements of the subsurface through seismic surveys and Class V injection wells. Seismic testing in the lake began in December and will run through the spring. The two Class V injection wells slated for this project will be built within the bounds of Livingston and St. John parishes to collect geotechnical data for the company. Air Products said it would lose more than $75,000 spent on seismic test and test well preparation should the moratorium stay in place because the state permits they’ve been granted would expire, according to the judge’s ruling.

There has been opposition for a year or so.

The project has been the subject of controversy for the better part of 2022. Initial protests centered on the company obtaining an operating agreement with state agencies amid Hurricane Ida’s devastation, which many in Livingston, Tangipahoa and other surrounding parishes say caused them not to have the proper chance to object the project’s approval. Those opposed to the Air Products project also expressed fears on how carbon capture and sequestration could affect Lake Maurepas’ plethora of wildlife and its recreational boating industry. Last month, residents flocked to Baton Rouge to speak against the Class V permit application in St. John the Baptist Parish at one of the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources’ first public hearings on that type of well permit application.

Air Products have tried to sway minds.

Air Products has nonetheless attempted to address those concerns through ongoing public informational meetings, weekly project updates on social media and seismic test demonstrations. “This project is critical to Louisiana’s clean energy transition and creating and preserving jobs in the state as it makes the transition from traditional energy sources to cleaner ones,” said George, the company’s communications director. “Air Products is committed to being a safe, transparent, and responsible community partner in all things: our operations, our communications and our business.” Ricks, in an interview Tuesday evening, said he needs to speak with the parish attorney about plans moving forward regarding the lawsuit. In the meantime, Ricks said, the parish government has been working with Air Products to ensure in writing the safety of the lake and of local residents throughout the entirety of the project. “It would just be, in my opinion, a total waste of dollars [to seek reconsideration] because we aren’t going to overcome that judge,” he said. “Would that make the citizens around the lake happy? No. They want you to fight, but at the same time you’re spending your money on something you know you can’t win. “It’s absolutely a lose-lose.”

This all is an effort to do what has not been done and no one knows what will happen.

Judge says carbon capture can continue