Drilling In Mississippi’s Waters?

In Louisiana state waters, oil and gas leaks are a constant threat. This photo was taken in Breton Sound in August 2011. Late in December, the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) published rules on seismic exploration and leasing for oil and gas in Mississippi waters south of the Barrier Islands. The rules would allow drilling in state waters, which would mean rigs visible on the horizon and the possibility of drilling accidents and spills even closer to Mississippi’s beaches. It seems that MDA has erased the 2010 BP disaster from its memory and hopes we will too.Early in his first term former Governor Haley Barbour transferred oversight of oil and gas development out of the Department of Environmental Quality’s office of Geology to MDA – the state’s economic development agency. This was to give him better control for speedy introduction and acceptance of these oil and gas rules. Contrary to this desired strategy, the rules introduced for oil and gas leasing in state waters were quickly suspended by MDA early in 2004 after intense opposition was apparent in comments heard at public meetings on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Now, MDA is trying again.GRN is working to make sure Mississippi’s coast and communities are protected from this threat. To read more about our concerns with this proposal, check out my recent letter to the editor in the Jackson Clarion Ledger.If you would like to see this latest effort dropped by MDA, you can oppose it by emailing comments about the oil and gas rules to minerallease@mississippi.org or calling MDA at (601) 359-3449. You should also urge the MDA to extend the public comment period by at least 60 days so that concerned citizens and groups can properly review this complicated proposal. Public meetings on the rules are scheduled in Jackson on Jan. 26th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Woolfolk state office building 501 N. West St.; and on the Coast on January 27th from 12 noon to 7 p.m. at Mississippi Coast Community College at 2300 Hwy 90, Gautier, MS., in the Administration Building Lecture Hall. If you’re interested in getting further involved in the effort to protect the Mississippi coast from oil and gas drilling, please email Raleigh@healthygulf.org or call Raleigh at 504.525.1528, ext. 204.Andrew Whitehurst is GRN’s Assistant Director of Science and Water Policy.

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