HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The group opposed to offshore drilling in Mississippi waters appeared before Harrison County supervisors Monday morning. Leaders of the 12 Mile South Coalition want supervisors to join their cause.
That coalition was formed in 2005 during the initial debate over drilling in state waters. It was resurrected recently, after former Governor Haley Barbour announced plans for the Mississippi Development Authority to pursue offshore drilling leases.
Opponents have a list of concerns, but the primary one involves the impact on tourism.
"It's important that the public be made aware of not only the environmental consequences of offshore drilling, but also the economic implications," said Louis Skrmetta, who operates Ship Island Excursions.
Those economic implications involve the coast's tourism industry. Dr. Jeff Bounds authored a study about the issue in 2005 and recently updated it to reflect the current debate over drilling.
"The big issue is there's so much state revenue that comes from tourism in the three coastal counties, that even if you perturb it just a little bit, you've cost yourself a lot of money," said Dr. Bounds.
His study says if the appearance of drill rigs would result in just a three percent drop in tourism, that alone would be enough to offset any money the state would receive from oil and gas leases.
"Basically, we think there's very good reason to believe that we could get a significant drop in tourism here because of the presence of the gas drilling rigs," he said.
"And is the issue today, the concerns you're expressing, the regulations that will be imposed on the drilling, or is it the actual drilling itself?" asked Supervisor Marlin Ladner.
Both was the answer given by the 12 Mile South leadership.
Supervisors agreed to schedule a workshop on the issue to address more of their questions. After that, they could vote on the issue.
"If everyone agrees with your position, we could, by resolution, send our wishes to the state legislature, the governor and the MDA," said Board President Kim Savant.