Lt. Governor weighs in on offshore drilling debate

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Lt. Governor Tate Reeves is a busy man these days, pushing his legislative agenda.

On the agenda for the MDA is gas drilling in state waters, near the barrier islands. Tourism leaders say such drilling, like that found off Dauphin Island, Alabama could hurt more than help.

Reeves says U.S. energy needs trump those concerns.

"Cleanly, long term, for our state, and really for our country, we've got to find more ways to find more natural gas and more oil," Reeves said.  "But it needs to be done in a manner that protects what is one of the, if not the most important industries in our state, and that's tourism."

The MDA rejected a request for an extension of the public comment period.  Reeves doesn't necessarily agree with that stance.

"I would much rather do it right than do it quick," the Lt. Governor said.  "As to whether or not they're moving too quickly, I think that clearly there needs to be an opportunity for the people of South Mississippi to speak on this issue."

While the Lt. Governor clearly favors drilling for natural gas in state waters, as long as we do it carefully, tourists have a completely different opinion about what should be happening here.

We caught up with Lisa Kater and Bev Connelly as they shopped for mementos at Souvenir City in Biloxi.

"I wouldn't like to see that," Kater said. "I like to come and see the beauty of the water and the beaches."

"I wouldn't like it at all," Connelly added. "It's going to ruin the beauty of the water sites and it's just not something you want to come see."

There may not be a choice anymore, according to Reeves.

"The fact of the matter is that the legislation passed, passed the legislature all the way back in 2004 or 2005. That ship has sailed," Reeves said.  "Now we're in the regulation phase and I hope the development authority will do the right thing."

Even if the process doesn't slow down, it could be months, or even years before drilling leases are signed, and exploratory rigs are in operation in the waters of the Mississippi Sound.

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