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Environmentalists ask county to oppose offshore drilling; supervisors decline

JACKSON COUNTY — An environmental group opposed to offshore drilling in Mississippi has asked Jackson County to join them.

County supervisors said they are not ready to take a stand on the issue.

The group, called 12 Miles South Coalition, met with supervisors yesterday.

State officials want to lease state waters in the Gulf of Mexico for offshore oil and gas exploration. The coalition says that means drilling rigs could go up near barrier islands and ruin the pristine areas.

Board president John McKay said he understands the group’s passion for protecting state waters, but can also see the value of drilling.

“There is good and bad of both sides of it. We are going to have to look at it and find out what is good for Jackson County and the state of Mississippi,” McKay said.

The Mississippi Development Authority filed the final draft of the drilling rules last month with the secretary of state’s office. They could take effect in mid-March.

Coastal leaders continue to debate how drilling might impact the coastal economy — potentially helping it through related spin-off businesses or possibly harming it through tourism and environmental impacts.

MDA spokesman Dan Turner has said specific concerns can be addressed in the terms of individual mineral leases.

The 12 Miles South members told supervisors that they don’t oppose drilling in general, but do oppose drilling in areas visible from the state’s barrier islands.

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