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Sierra Club Takes Mississippi Development Authority to Court to Block Drilling Regulations

By Rhonda Miller | Published 15 Mar 2012 09:19pm | comments
Mississippi Development Authority map of leasable drilling areas in Mississippi waters.

Two environmental groups are taking the Mississippi Development Authority to court to keep offshore drilling regulations from going into effect. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports tourism and the future of the barrier islands are the major concerns.

The Sierra Club and the Gulf Restoration Network say one reason they filed the lawsuit is because the state failed to do a valid economic impact study.  The lawsuit also charges Mississippi Development Authority with violating the public trust by failing to protect the environment, especially the barrier islands. Attorney Robert Wiygul of Ocean Springs filed the case.

"The problem with these regulations is that they’re basically handing out public resources to the oil and gas industry without looking at how that’s going to affect other parts of the economy or the environment."

State Sierra Club Director Louie Miller says the process for finalizing the regulations was rushed and creates a lot of concern about drilling rigs close to the mainland and the barrier islands.

"Their leasing block map, which has significant inaccuracies in it, as far as the boundaries of the park and the oyster reefs, but nonetheless, that map shows those lease blocks coming up to the shoreline in Jackson and Hancock Counties."

Governor Phil Bryant says he believes the state can protect tourism while making the most of its energy resources.

“We need offshore drilling because there’s 350 billion cubic feet of natural gas on the other side of the barrier islands that’s going to be recovered by Alabama and Louisiana, if we don’t recover it. It will add $250 million to the Education Trust Fund, which we desperately need just now.”

The lawsuit asks the court to keep the drilling regulations from going into effect until a review of all public comments and documents related to case  is done.

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


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