Offshore regulations to go into effect; environmentalists vow to fight

GULF OF MEXICO — Regulations governing offshore seismic surveying and offshore mineral leasing are expected to go into effect in mid-March.

The Mississippi Press reports the final draft of the rules has been sent to Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s office, where it must sit for 30 days before becoming active.

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.

Mississippi Development Authority spokesman Dan Turner said specific concerns could be addressed in the terms of individual mineral leases.

“We have latitude in the leases,” Turner said. “We can put conditions on a lease that they can’t do surface operations in a particular area or that they have to access a certain block from an adjacent block.”

Louie Miller, state director of the Mississippi Sierra Club, said writing conditions into leases is like “closing the barnyard gate after the horse is out” and said he is continuing his efforts to stop drilling.

“This is a campaign we won eight years ago,” Miller said. “We fully intend to win it again or die in the ditch trying.”

Earlier this month, the National Park Service said allowing drilling within one mile of Horn and Petit Bois islands would spoil the islands’ wilderness character. Casino operators said while they’re not opposed to drilling, they don’t want to see tourist areas overrun by industrial equipment, boats and workers.

In a separate but related item, a Mississippi Coast lawmaker has proposed a bill to ban offshore drilling near a spot around the western end of West Ship Island.

The Sun Herald reports the bill was filed by State Sen. Sean Tindell, R-Gulfport.

Tindell says the area should be off limits to drilling because it’s where the Ship Island ferry brings tourists and many pleasure-boaters use the area as well. He says the Mississippi Development Authority is working with him to make the area off limits, so the bill may not be needed.

Tindell says local officials want to keep the view clean for tourism.

He says the area is between the island and the beaches, on the western tip. He says one wants to jeopardize the billion-dollar tourism industry.

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