More Than A Hundred Protest In Gulfport Against Off Shore Drilling

The theme was a celebration of the 35th Anniversary of Earth Day. The message however was one of dire warning for the future of Mississippi's Barrier Islands.

"It's under assault by oil and gas interests, says Louis Miller with the Sierra Club. "They want to drill the islands and we think that's unacceptable."

The rally was organized primarily by local's, who represent a broad spectrum of environmental, civic, political, and business interest opposed to federal push to allow drilling just one mile outside the Gulf Island Parks Buffer Zone.

According to Captain Louis Skrmetta, owner of Ship Island Excursions, "I don't think the people of the Gulf Coast understand the ramifications of this federal legislation."  "It literally takes the authority away from the national park service to stop any type of exploratory drilling or testing for oil and gas within the boundaries of the national parks."

Aside from environmental damage panelist here say concerns about the economic damage to the tourism industry may be just as alarming and just as costly.

"They don't go to Ship Island to view an industrial site with noisy oil platforms like you have off Dauphin Island in Mobile Bay," says Skrmetta.

And this group believes the remedy could lie ironically, in that same congress that's currently considering the bill they oppose.

"The states of Texas and Florida have resolved this problem by having the federal government purchase their mineral rights," says Coast Representative Diane Peranich. "And while in fact the governor of Florida had a brother who is President, we in fact have the chairman of appropriations who is a Mississippian and our benefactor Senator Thad Cochran."