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Seismic Testing Permits and Energy Summit Promise to Keep Spotlight on Drilling

By Rhonda Miller | Published 06 Mar 2012 06:07pm | comments
Mississippi Development Authority map of leasable drilling areas in Mississippi waters.

An energy summit in Biloxi Monday featuring some of the Republican presidential candidates is expected to put the spotlight on drilling in Mississippi waters.  With permits for seismic testing to be offered in mid-March, MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports environmental groups and officials continue to battle it out.

Standing beside the Pascagoula River, in his home district earlier this week, State Senator Brice Wiggins, says he believes there can be a balance between drilling and protecting the environment.

"People in Pascagoula, I can tell you, have a great affinity for their natural resources, the Pascagoula River, and I’m going to do everything I can to protect that. The plan that has been already approved by previous legislatures, I think is a workable plan. There may be some things that we have to tweak."

The plan approved by the 2004 state Legislature allows drilling in Mississippi waters, mostly one mile south of the barrier islands. Wiggins says one area that may require a closer look is in eastern Jackson County near the Alabama line, where some of the drilling sites go right up to the shore.

"And it does concern me and I’ve expressed that to MDA and I told them that people have a vested in that, and they need to look after that. The opposite side of it is that Alabama is taking our reserves, because they’re already doing it over there."

But in a recent report on the economic impact of drilling in Mississippi waters, engineering consultant Jeffrey Bounds says those resources don’t add up to the known value of tourism.

"The reserve off the coast of Mississippi is very small. Any of that gas that gets mined, it’s not going to lower the price any, the price is already in the basement. The state’s not going to make any significant money off of it. We’re going to be jeopardizing tourism without any compensating money."

Bounds did the report for the 12 Miles South Coalition, which opposes drilling in Mississippi waters. The coalition went looking for support from the Jackson County Board of Supervisors this week.  Board President John McKay is not convinced.

"Yes, it could affect tourism. But I also submit that if gas prices keep going higher and higher and higer, that’s going to affect tourism also, because people can’t travel to get here."

Some people who are expected to travel to get here include Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. They are scheduled to take part in the Gulf Coast Energy Summit at the Coast Coliseum on Monday. 



Mississippi Development Authority map of leasable drilling areas in Mississippi waters.



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