View of Gas Rigs From Dauphin Island, AL. by Harold WrightThere has been a lot of media coverage lately about drilling in the Gulf. Over 3 years ago, the BP disaster began, releasing millions of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf. More recently, Mississippi’s Sun Herald has published a string of articles discussing oil and gas leases within 12 miles of the barrier islands. As the Sun Herald points out in this recent editorial against drilling around the islands, the Harrison County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution earlier this summer opposing oil and gas development within 12 miles of our barrier islands and national seashores. GRN whole-heartedly supports this position. Why? Because oil and gas development so near shore would increase risk to our environment and would also have aesthetic impacts on our beautiful coasts, which could lead to a decline in the state’s multibillion dollar tourism industry and a loss of many coastal jobs. A recent study by Datu Research LLC, points out that Wildlife Tourism, a 19 billion dollar industry, is an essential part of the economy on the Gulf coast. The coast has had a hard couple of years, first suffering the wrath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and then being covered in toxic crude oil after the BP oil disaster. These not only affected the economy, but also did significant damage to the natural ecosystem that it depends on… that WE depend on. Given the benefits that a healthy coastal ecosystem can provide for us, it is of utmost importance that we do everything we can to conserve this area. The opening of coastal waters within 12 miles of our natural seashore for lease by oil and gas companies threatens these resources. A study by Jeffery Bounds, “Drilling by Numbers,” points out that oil and gas production in these waters doesn’t even make economic sense. Maximizing gas production would generate about 11 million dollars in revenue for the state per year, but would jeopardize a 1.6 billion dollar tourism industry. In fact, just a 2-3 percent drop in tourism would totally negate any economic revenue from gas production! The bottom line is that oil and natural gas our not our most precious natural resource. Our most precious natural resource is the coastal environment. It’s the majestic flora, fauna, and wilderness that make the Mississippi such a unique and inspiring place. Gas leases within 12 miles of the barrier islands have not yet been opened, but how much longer will that be the case? The time to take action is now!If you live in Mississippi, click here to tell the Governor to reject drilling in state waters.