DMR asserts authority in oil and gas lease issue

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The DMR is asserting its authority when it comes to possible oil and gas leases in state waters. That issue came up again at Tuesday's monthly meeting of the Commission on Marine Resources.

DMR Director Jamie Miller clarified his agency's position in a letter to the Mississippi Development Authority. He assured commissioners and the public that the DMR did not issue blanket "consistency" for MDA's rules regulating oil and gas leases.

"I believe it's important that DMR retain the right to review each seismic permit application on a case by case basis. And my letter to MDA makes it clear that we will recognize their permit authority, but we will not relinquish ours," he told the commission.

That position found support, even among some drilling opponents.

"It sounds like Jamie Miller did the best he could for us in that he is not giving away the power that we on the coast need. And I understand that power is going to come through this commission," said Steve Shepard, who represents the Sierra Club on the coast.

The commission heard again from those who are concerned about the possible negative consequences of oil and gas drilling.

"While there are valid reasons to make sure this nation is energy independent, I don't think we can sacrifice our soul and what makes our community whole, what gives us the quality of life that we really expect, especially in unique places like the gulf coast," said Helen Rose Patterson, with the Gulf Restoration Network.

Organized opponents to oil and gas drilling in Mississippi waters are doing more than just speaking out. They've also taken legal action. The Gulf Restoration Network and Sierra Club filed a lawsuit challenging MDA's regulation of such leases. Arguments are set to be heard January 6th in Hinds County Chancery Court.

"I'm asking our local people that are on this commission to definitely, seriously look out for us and consider what our findings show," said Shepard.

The review of rules is strictly procedural and part of the process at this point. That's because, so far, no company has applied for a permit to drill in Mississippi waters.

Opponents to drilling in Mississippi waters encouraged commissioners to read the study by Dr. Jeffery Bounds, which outlines the negative impact such activity would likely have on the tourism industry here.

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