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Offshore Drilling Plan and Federal Audit of BP Claims Keep Oil in the Spotlight

By Rhonda Miller | Published 22 Dec 2011 07:32pm | comments
James A. "Catfish" Miller

Some fishermen along the Mississippi Gulf Coast say new offshore drilling could further muddy the waters where they earn their living. MPB's Rhonda Miller has more on the continuing fallout from the BP oil spill.

"This is a serious situation. I've got to feed my family like you do, too, sir." 

Shrimper and oysterman James A.  “Catfish” Miller described the troubles plaguing fishermen during a meeting of the state Department of Marine Resources in Biloxi earlier this week. Miller said it goes back to the BP oil spill.

"It’s been a poor season for us fishermen all around," Miller said. "For the oysters for sure, 'cause this is two years in a row that I ain’t made a copper penny from it."

Miller is among many fishermen, boat captains and tourism leaders inflamed by Governor Haley Barbour’s reasoning that a strip of Mississippi waters should 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 said. "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."

Tom Becker is president of the Mississippi Charter Boat Captain’s Association.  He said he’s concerned about drilling so close to the barrier islands.

"We have too many people going out there on the weekends. That is where the fish hang out," Becker said. "I don’t think it’s going to be a worthwhile project for the tourists or the state."

But commercial fisherman Steve Bosarge, who is also on the board of the state Department of Marine Resources, said it’s not just about profits.

"I believe this country needs to be energy independent and if means drilling one mile off those islands, I think there are enough safeguards in place," said Bosarge.

But those safeguards don’t convince Mississippians still trying to recover financially from the BP oil spill. Many have unresolved issues with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility. Now they have federal eyes on the problem.  The U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday the Houston office of BDO Consulting will conduct an independent audit of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood praised the federal audit, but said he will continue his own investigation.

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James A. "Catfish" Miller


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