BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana's Department of Natural Resources has approved a drilling permit for Helis Oil & Gas Co., which plans a fracking project that many St. Tammany Parish residents vehemently oppose.

The department posted a notice on its website late Friday saying it had approved the permit for a vertical well about 2 ½ miles deep. The permit is for an exploration well. New state approval would be needed if the company decides to proceed with hydraulic fracturing.

The company says it will take months to study data from the exploratory well, once it is drilled.

St. Tammany Parish and the town of Abita Springs have sued DNR to prevent the well. This past week, Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany filed a motion to join the parish's lawsuit.

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