Drilling controversy comes before Commission on Marine Resources

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The controversy over drilling for oil and gas in the Mississippi Sound came before the Commission on Marine Resources on Tuesday.

The CMR heard an update on the Mississippi Development Authority's request for a review of its rules and regulations regarding offshore leases.

The Department of Marine Resources must determine whether MDA's rules for offshore leases meet coastal zone consistency. Are they in keeping with the master plan for managing coastal resources?

The DMR received more than two dozen written public comments.

"There were several who pointed to a specific study that referenced that losses in tourism revenue would likely surpass the revenues that would be brought about by drilling," said the DMR's Willa Brantley, as she gave commissioners an update.

Though this update was a non-action item, several people spoke against any drilling.

"We don't want to lose this habitat. We don't want to stop being a seafood producing natural area. We want people to come to the coast for tourism and to live here. And they come here because we're one of the most unique areas in the world, and we're going to lose that if we're not careful," said Terese Collins, who represents Gulf Islands Conservancy.

Fisherman Don Abrams, questioned the rules for seismic testing; calling them slipshod and wishy washy.

"If I'm standing on a dock, the regulation says they can't blow up a seismic charge within 300 feet of me. If I step off the dock, onto the beach, they can drop one in my pocket," said Abrams.

Commissioners took no vote, since this was a non-action item.

"Before there would be any drilling or any activity in the Mississippi Sound, they would have to come before this commission and get a permit, is that correct?" asked commissioner, Richard Gollott.

"Yes. If we found this consistent, it would only approve the leasing of the blocks, which is mainly paperwork," said Brantley.

"The important thing is we're looking at the rules," said DMR executive director, Jamie Miller, "And really what the rules say now is that DMR will have a role in the decision making process."

Despite the ongoing debate over drilling, so far; not a single company has applied for an offshore lease in the Mississippi Sound.

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