Waiting on Jindal: Governor's signature all that's needed for SB 585 to become law

Senate Bill No. 585 target the proposed expansion of natural gas storage caverns at Lake Peigneur, where residents have fought the expansion for years.

Senate Bill 585, which places a two-year moratorium on constructing solution-mined salt caverns in Iberia Parish, is awaiting Gov. Bobby Jindal’s signature after being sent to his office June 1 from the Secretary of the Senate.

“I’m anticipating a signature pretty soon,” said state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, who pushed the bill through the House and Senate. “I think it’s just a matter of timing.”

Save Lake Peigneur President Nara Crowley said she is waiting until the bill is law before getting anything started, but she has been in contact with AGL Resources, the company hoping to construct two more Twin Tower-sized salt caverns beneath the lake.

AGL Resources worked with Save Lake Peigneur on the creation of SB 585, which, in addition to the moratorium, require AGL to fund a new study conducted by a third party geologist to get new data to ensure the two existing caverns are structurally sound, to ensure the salt can withstand two more caverns of this size and to find the cause of intermittent bubbling and foaming that has many residents worried.

“We want to make sure the structure is sound as of today,” Mills said, adding that the data being used was almost 10 years old. “I told them, ‘Whether your science is right or wrong, it’s up to you to make these people feel comfortable.’ Both sides agreed, if we had new fresh data it could shine a whole different light on this conversation.”

Crowley said she was pleased the company was so cooperative and she hopes to continue an open dialogue with it as the testing begins.

“Compromise is a good way to resolve these types of issues,” she said. “We have to agree on the third party. I’m hoping it would be a university, but not a local university. Not that they don’t have the experts, but because we both want someone with no bias and it’s hard to find local people who won’t be biased.”

AGL spokesman Duane Bourne reflected similar plans of cooperation in a prepared statement.

“Jefferson Island Storage and Hub and its parent company, AGL Resources, has worked with Save the Lake and look forward to continuing our work with them to ensure that the permitting processes address all areas of concern,” he said by email. “We remain committed to expanding our storage operations in a safe and reliable manner, and our goal is to move forward with this project in such a way that we address all concerns.”

The bill passed through the House and Senate without a single nay vote, and was sent to the governor’s office June 1. If the governor doesn’t sign or veto the bill by June 20, it will automatically become law.

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