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Preparation for Gas and Oil Drilling Off Mississippi Barrier Islands Moving Forward

By Rhonda Miller | Published 12 Feb 2012 06:08pm | comments
Map of sites in Mississippi waters available for leasing for gas and oil drillng.

Drilling for gas and oil in Mississippi waters could soon be a reality. A majority of residents and organizations that recently submitted comments to the state have major concerns about drilling. But as MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports, the question of “to drill or not to drill” has already been decided.

The state Legislature approved drilling one mile south of the Mississippi barrier islands in 2004. The Mississippi Development Authority only asked for public comments about the proposed regulations for seismic testing and drilling.  Terese Collins of the Gulf Islands Conservancy submitted comments pointing out some gaps she finds in the regulations.

“One, where will the vessels that support this industry go? Two, how will they allow them to lay the pipelines? What will they impact? What will the seismic testing be? What impact will that have on the stressed out dolphins?

Three casinos, Island View, IP and Beau Rivage, submitted concerns that include large vessels that service the rigs coming and going in Mississippi Sound.  Beau Rivage spokeswoman Mary Spain says the casino supports responsible drilling, but wants to make sure the tourism industry is not harmed by industrial facilities.

"We wanted to make sure the impacts of landside ports are carefully considered and that includes everything from where they would be located, the appearance, the aesthetic value to the coast."

Some fishermen, like Chris Balius of St. Martin, say the rigs will be an advantage.

"I think it would be good for our economy. We’re in need of the jobs. It would bring added benefits like giving us more fishing grounds for recreational and commercial charter fishermen."

Several groups, as well as State Senator Deborah Dawkins and State Representative Bobby Moak, asked for an extension of the public comment period, which ended January 31. Dan Turner of the Mississippi Development Authority says after the rules are revised based on the comments, they go to the Secretary of State, there’s a 30-day waiting period, then the rules go into effect.

"Companies can certainly come in and apply for permits for seismic testing, and presumably after the seismic testing, companies could bid on lots as the state holds an annual sale."

Turner says the only way a change could be made in the process, at this point, is if the state Legislature changes the laws for drilling.



Map of sites in Mississippi waters available for leasing for gas and oil drillng.



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