Offshore Drilling Bill Divides People On Shore

John Brazell tried to fly kites off the Ocean Springs pier. But he had a few problems keeping them out of the water.

"Uh oh. Crash and burn," he laughed, as one of his kites hit the pier.

The George County man is hoping offshore drilling legislation does the same thing -- that it crashes before any drilling can begin.

"I own four vehicles," Brazell said. "But that still doesn't mean I want gas. But I think they're going to do it anyway. It's their choice."

Brazell joked that he would like to see the rigs 300 miles off shore.

Donna Brown likes where the current legislation places them -- about 12 miles from the Ocean Springs shoreline.

"I have to say it isn't going to affect us," she said.

Brown runs Gulf Hills Resort. And she's part of Leadership Jackson County. That group was in Jackson Thursday. So Brown got to hear the senate debate about the drilling.

"When they were against it, they were stiff and they were staunch," she said. "And you could almost see the hair on the back of their necks standing up."

Brown is the vice president of the Ocean Springs Chamber. She knows some tourism leaders oppose the rigs. But Brown doesn't see how something so far off shore can keep people away from her quaint little city.

"Last time I knew, the only man that could see 13 miles out was Superman. And I haven't met him recently," she said.

Proponents of the drilling told lawmakers that money in Mississippi's education trust would soar if they approved the offshore rigs. They also said if Mississippi banned the drilling, rigs in Alabama and Louisiana could tap into Mississippi's waters.

"Do I want $100 million in Jackson County?" Brown asked, "Or do I want it to go to Alabama? I think it's a no brainer right there."

If the house and senate reach a compromise, John Brazell will be flying kites with offshore rigs on the distant horizon.

The drilling legislation keeps most of the rig work away from the Mississippi Sound. But there are exceptions that must be worked out by the house and senate conference committees. According to Sen. Billy Hewes, that should be done in about three weeks.