Wave Maker’s News: Drilling on Mississippi’s Horizon?

This article is excerpted from Wave Maker’s News, our quarterly update on all things water in the Gulf of Mexico, check out the full newsletter here. Views like this one, taken from Alabama’s Dauphin Island, could soon mar the horizon of Mississippi’s wilderness barrier islands. Photo by Harold Wright.During the heart of last year’s holiday season and just weeks before leaving office, former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour announced a plan to open up portions of the Mississippi Sound and areas within a mile of Mississippi’s wilderness barrier islands to oil and gas drilling. Since then, Gulf Restoration Network has been working with our allies in Mississippi to put the brakes on this irresponsible plan.In 2005, the last time a similar proposal was put forward, thousands of coast residents joined together to stand up and say “No” to oil and gas rigs in state waters, and the politicians up in Jackson ultimately backed down. Their message was simple, Mississippi’s coast and the wilderness barrier islands that make up Gulf Islands Seashore national park are too important to be marred by drilling.It was true then, and it’s still true now. Generations of families have enjoying fishing and swimming in the Mississippi Sound, or lying out on the beach at Ship Island. And the natural beauty of the Mississippi Gulf coast is a big part of why millions of people come to visit every year – supporting a tourism industry that provides thousands of jobs and $1.6 billion in annual economic activity. Plus, experts say Mississippi probably doesn’t have any oil reserves, and has comparatively small natural gas reserves (1/16 the size of Alabama’s). According to a recent study, if just 2 to 3% of tourists vacation somewhere else because they don’t want to see rigs on the horizon, opening up Mississippi’s waters for drilling would result in the state losing money.The only parties that will benefit from this proposal are a handful of oil and gas companies that want to come to Mississippi, suck out any mineral resources they can find, and make a quick buck. GRN and the Sierra Club recently filed a lawsuit against the Mississippi Development Authority, the state agency charged with developing drilling regulations, because they failed to properly analyze the economic impact that drilling would have. We intend to keep up the fight to protect Gulf Islands Seashore national park and the health of the Mississippi Sound from this ongoing threat.Raleigh Hoke is GRN’s Mississippi Organizer.

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