Debate Continues Over Oil And Gas Drilling - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

08/02/05

Debate Continues Over Oil And Gas Drilling

The debate and dissension continues over proposed oil and gas drilling near the barrier islands. On Tuesday, the Gulfport Business Club provided a forum for the latest discussion.

It's a debate involving emotions, aesthetics, the economy and the environment. Tuesday a representative from the oil and gas industry, along with a state representative who supports the proposed drilling, brought their message to about 50 business and community leaders in Gulfport.

"This is just to give a perspective on that well facility," said Joe Sims, who brought the perspective of the oil and gas industry to the Gulfport Business Club.

Armed with slides of productive wells in nearby Alabama, he told the group he's sensitive to concerns about protecting the barrier islands.

"But we think natural gas is also, could be, an important Mississippi asset that we'd like to develop through science. And we think we can obviously do it safely and in an environmentally sensitive way," said Sims.

"If we do have natural gas out there, drill and get it," said state representative Roger Ishee.

He makes no apologies for his support of gas and oil exploration and says Mississippi should reap the same benefits as our neighbors to the east and west.

"We need this money. We need this gas. But the main thing we need is the gas. We're talking about energy," said Ishee.

Opponents didn't buy the arguments.

Ted Riemann is a member of the drilling opposition group, "12 Miles South".

"What you're trying to do is take a bad idea and put a good spin on it. That's a lot like what I do for a living as an ad man. But I want to tell you, you didn't convince me at all today," he said.

The Gulfport Business Club heard a formal presentation from drilling opponents a few weeks ago. Several used this opportunity to raise concerns.

"How do you allay concerns that once it gets started, it's not going to mushroom into something much larger, more intrusive and dangerous, environmentally and for humans?" questioned one opponent.

Rep. Ishee says recent legislative changes actually reduced the potential drilling fields.

"Under the old law, you could drill anywhere you wanted to. Right on up to the beach and in both bays," he explained.

by  Steve Phillips 

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