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Development Officials Asking Public for Comment on Gulf Drilling Project

By Daniel Cherry | Published 26 Jan 2012 06:02pm | comments

The Mississippi Development Authority says a proposed natural gas drilling project in the Gulf of Mexico will be an economic boom for the state. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how some environmental protection advocates say the risk outweighs the reward.

State environmental and economic development agencies are inviting the public to share their concerns over a proposed drilling project in the Gulf. At a forum yesterday in Jackson, Andrew Whitehurst with the Gulf Restoration Network had many concerns, one of which is the impact drilling would have on tourism.

"If you look off Dauphin Island you can see rigs very close and it just kind of ruins the experience for people. They're not going to come from a long distance to a place where they can see oil rigs off the beaches. If they can go somewhere else...they will."

Some are concerned with the prospect of drilling so close to shore...especially since the BP Oil Spill is still fresh in everyone's mind. Joe Jewell with the Department of Marine Resources says the drilling would take place in shallow water, and the risk of complications is low.

"They have restricted it in the most sensitive areas. We do feel that with the Departments of Environmental Quality, the Department of Marine Resources, that with those restrictions in place, these things can be done in a safe and environmentally sensitive manner."

It's estimated there is as much as 350 billion cubic feet of natural gas offshore, with an approximate value of 1.8 billion dollars to the state. Some say natural gas prices are so low now, the project isn't worth it, but Dan Turner, a spokesman for the Mississippi Development Authority says the state can't afford to wait.

"As far as the question of, why now? It's not a question of going out and selling a lease tomorrow. It's a question of being ready when the price comes up. The state will have the rules and regulations in place, and we can lease those blocks."

There will be another public comment period today in Gautier from noon until 7 tonight.

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