Coalition Worried About Drilling Near Islands - - The News for South Mississippi

Coalition Worried About Drilling Near Islands

After its rally last August at the Coast Coliseum, the 12 Mile South Coalition thought it fears of drilling near the barrier islands were eased. In fact, coalition member Bones Barq says they counted on a federal buyout proposed by Senator Thad Cochran. 

"There would be a 3-hundred million dollar buyout and there would be no drilling 12 miles south of the islands. Now we understand that this bill even takes away that and brings it inside of the 12 miles, inside the barrier islands which we understand could come to the sand beach," Barq says.

Cochran's office says the latest Senate debate focuses on drilling away from the islands. Barq and fellow coalition member Louis Skrmetta say several bills address drilling and the two say they're very confusing. 

"We don't know what's going on. All we want is simple language where we don't have to have Dickie Scruggs come and analyze it for us. No drilling 12 miles south of the barrier islands."

"We don't wanna have to come up every four or five years and fight the oil and gas industry over this issue. We wanna protect our tourism industry. We wanna make sure the next ten, twenty years that the National Seashore out there is protected," says Skrmetta.

As vocal as the group is coalition members say they want to set the record straight,  they do not oppose drilling. They say the state needs the revenue but not, the coalition says, at the expense of hurting the pristine islands. 

Skrmetta says, "We don't need an industrial site sitting south of those islands. We want that 12 mile zone that's protected. After 12 miles, no problem, they can drill and get the royalties, no problem."  

The coalition hopes Mississippi's congressional delegation will agree, and keep the waters of the Mississippi Sound rig free.

According to information released by Cochran's office, the area the Senate is looking at for drilling includes about 2 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico known as Area 181, as well another six million acres to the south. Cochran says the Energy Policy Act of 2005 provides Mississippi with $31 million each year beginning in 2007.

by Marcia Hill

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