BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - We have a follow-up to a story WLOX News first reported on Thursday.
It involves the debate over oil and gas drilling in Mississippi waters. That issue is heating up again because the Mississippi Development Authority has begun the process of allowing an offshore lease sale.
The MDA says some comments made in our story by environmental consultant, Dr. Ed Cake, were inaccurate.
Here is the entire statement from Karen Bishop, MDA Energy and Natural Resources Division Director:
In response to WLOX's recent story titled "Debate Heating Up Again over Oil and Gas Drilling in Mississippi" the Mississippi Development Authority would like to set the record straight regarding several inaccurate statements and assertions made by a representative of the citizens group, 12 Miles South.
It is important to understand that multiple state and federal entities are involved in the leasing and permitting process to ensure the most responsible development of our state's resources. Part of the process of proceeding with our legislatively-mandated annual lease sale is a requirement that the Mississippi Development Authority coordinate with the Department of Marine Resources to ensure that the proposed activities are consistent with DMR's responsibilities as the coastal zone regulatory agency.
On August 9, 2013, MDA submitted a request to DMR for Coastal Zone Consistency Review of its published rules and regulations governing offshore leasing and seismic permitting. DMR has a list of agencies they solicit review and comments from, as well as the public, and they quickly began moving forward with this request. MDA urges the public to visit www.msenergyfuture.com to learn more about this process and the benefits of allowing exploration to occur in the allowable portions of our state's waters.
Dr. Ed Cake's assertion that MDA is attempting to "come in the back door" with a desire to change the adopted rules and regulations is absolutely false. MDA does not desire or expect to change its rules. If changes were ever required at any point in the future, the process would be governed by the Administrative Procedures Act, which is a well established process that includes opportunity for public involvement.
Additionally, Dr. Cake's claim that MDA has produced lease-block maps that do not contain the legislatively-mandated barriers around sensitive coastal areas, like oyster reefs, and the barrier islands is untrue. MDA is unaware of the map to which Dr. Cake refers. The law states, and the lease block map clearly shows, that these areas are restricted with a one-mile buffer of no drilling rigs or production platforms. The map is reproduced for the public here: http://www.msenergyfuture.com/map.php
In 2004, the legislature wisely restricted offshore activity to the blocks and areas outlined, which ensure protection of our natural resources and tourism assets while allowing exploration and the benefits of production to accrue to our state.
This issue is very important to our state's future, and the facts must be presented accurately. MDA appreciates the opportunity to present the facts.
MDA Energy and Natural Resources Division Director