Push for Offshore Drilling Revives ControversyBy Rhonda Miller | Published 20 Dec 2011 07:12pm |
Governor Haley Barbour’s renewed push for oil and gas drilling off the Mississippi coast guarantees heated debate for the last days of his term. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports on the controversy.
Governor Haley Barbour says legislation already in place allows limited drilling right up to the shore along the Alabama line, where the natural gas may actually be under Mississippi land and water.
"For us in Mississippi, that is very unpopulated, non-developed savannahs and marshes in the very southeast corner of Jackson County," says the Governor.
Barbour says the remainder of the proposed drilling would be about 10 miles away from the mainland and at least one mile from Mississippi’s barrier islands.
He says a strip a mile or two wide could be leased for drilling.
"When you get south of that strip, 12 miles offshore, that becomes federal waters and people can drill there now," Barbour says. "If they drill there now and make a well, we get 35 percent of the royalty. If they drill in state waters, we get 100 percent of the royalty."
There are already stirrings of the revival of the 12 Miles South Coalition of environmental and business leaders. The group opposed drilling within 12 miles of the barrier islands several years ago. The Gulf Islands Conservancy is part of that coalition and its president, Terese Collins, says there has to be a balance between economic development and environmental protection.
"Our tourism economy cannot sustain another disaster,'" says Collins. "The resources are recovering - the fisheries, the shrimp, the oysters, the crabs, our dolphins. We’re not recovered from the last major, largest oil and gas disaster in our country, and now we’re proposing this new development in Mississippi waters. I don’t think we have the capacity to handle this."
But Steve Bosarge disagrees. He’s a commercial fisherman and member of the state Commission on Marine Resources.
"I feel confident there will be no harm to the environment," says Bosarge. "I feel like for the good of the country, this is something that needs to be done. If there are resources there, they need to be tapped."
The Mississippi Development Authority has drafted rules for offshore oil and gas drilling in state waters and is accepting public comment through January 20th.
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