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MDA Director Will Decide If Gulf Drilling Rules Stand

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 10 Aug 2012 04:13pm | comments
a map of areas up for lease.

It is now up to the executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority to decide if oil and gas exploration can proceed in Mississippi Gulf waters. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that three environmental groups are challenging the rules to prevent drilling in Mississippi waters.

The Sierra Club, The Gulf restoration network, and the 12 miles south coalition say the Mississippi Development Authority stacked the deck in favor of expanding off shore drilling when it issued the rules over leasing gulf waters for natural gas exploration and possible drilling earlier this year.

Following two days of hearings over the rules last week, it is now up to the M-D-A executive director Brent Christensen to decide if the rules should stand.

Dan Turner with the MDA says a decision could come this fall, but that it is not the final word on drilling and exploration in the gulf.

"There are steps that can be taken beyond that initial challenge if people feel so inclined. They could challenge it in chancery court if they don't get the outcome that they feel like is right," turner said.

The attorney representing the environmental groups, Robert Wiygul, thinks it is unlikely that the director is going to strike down rules approved by his own agency.

"As you know, he has only been in that job for a couple months. These regulations were put into place during a transition period at the end of the Barbour administration and when there was an interim executive director at the agency. So we certainly hope Mr. Christensen is going to give this a fair look," Wiygul said.

Wiygul says thy MDA should redraw the rules because they were written with the intention of leasing the gulf waters and ignored any potential negatives.

"The bottom line on this thing is that regulation was going to be what it was going to be before it ever went out to the public," Wiygul said.

In the mean time, the MDA's Dan Turner says the agency is working to streamline the rules and regulations surrounding oil and gas exploration and possible drilling in the Mississippi gulf.

"Because you would have to go from getting a lease to getting the permit through the Oil and Gas Board. And there may be some DEQ requires or DMR requirements. We would like to be able to compress all of that and not make it so onerous on the businesses on the businesses that would do this," Turner said.

Turner says, so far, they have not had any requests for leases.

If the rules do not stand, it could mean no Mississippi waters would be available for oil and gas companies to lease and explore.

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a map of areas up for lease.


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