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Groups to appeal oil and gas rules for Mississippi Sound

September 25th, 2012 No comments

Mississippi Development Authority executive director Brent Christensen denied Monday an appeal by two environmental groups to reconsider rules governing oil and gas leases, drilling and exploration in the Mississippi Sound.

The Sierra Club and Gulf Restoration Network had asked the agency to rethink its decision to allow those activities in the area south of the Mississippi Barrier Islands. Under the rules, they would be allowed within one mile seaward of the islands.

The two groups announced Tuesday afternoon plans to appeal Christensen’s decision. A press release did not specify in what court that appeal would take place. The Sierra Club and GRN initially appealed the rules to Hinds County Chancery Court, but the MDA was successful in convincing the chancellor that the first appeal had to go through the agency.

GRN Mississippi organizer Raleigh Hoke said the MDA “has completely ignored the negative impacts the drilling and production could have on coastal tourism and other industries.”

The release said the groups are appealing on behalf of the 12 Miles South Coalition, an organization made up of Coast business and community leadership whose goal is to limit drilling and related activities no closer than 12 nautical miles south of the islands. The Coalition says drilling closer would harm the area’s tourism economy.

Group pushing to limit Gulf oil and gas development to hold forum Thursday in Gulfport

June 26th, 2012 No comments

A group that wants to limit oil and gas production to areas of the Gulf of Mexico at least 12 nautical miles south of the Mississippi Barrier Islands is holding a public forum Thursday night in Gulfport to talk about that initiative.

The 12 Miles South Coalition, made up of business and community leaders from the Gulf Coast, will hold what it’s calling “an evening of education and dialogue” about plans to open Mississippi waters to oil and gas exploration and drilling. Panelists – which will include representatives from Gulf Islands National Seashore, the Gulf Restoration Network and the Mississippi Gulf Coast CVB – will go over potential impact to the Coast’s environment and economy drilling that close to the Barrier Islands could have.

Currently, areas leased for exploration and/or production come as close as a mile south of the islands. The Mississippi Development Authority accepted comments on the proposals earlier this year. In March, the Sierra Club and the Gulf Restoration Network sued to stop the implementation of the plans.

In 2004, the Mississippi Legislature opened up 38 percent of Mississippi’s portion of the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas development. The rest is off limits.

Thursday’s forum starts at 6 p.m. at the Handsboro Community Center on Switzer Road. It is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.12milessouthcoatlition.org or facebook.com/12milessouthcoalition.

 

Beef plant trial, scheduled to start Monday, taken off judge’s calendar

March 16th, 2012 No comments

The civil trial involving the state and the Georgia-based company hired to manage the construction of the failed Mississippi Beef Processors plant in Oakland has been taken off Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Winston Kidd’s calendar.

The trial had been scheduled to start Monday morning.

Dorsey Carson, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, would not comment when reached on his cell phone Friday, other than to confirm that the trial was not going forward as of mid-afternoon.

Usually, a civil trial being removed from a judge’s calendar means the two sides have reached a settlement, or are close to doing so.

The state of Mississippi, its now-defunct Land, Water and Timber Board and the Mississippi Development Authority are suing Facility Construction Management Inc. in an effort to recoup some or all of the $54 million the state lost when the cull cattle plant closed shortly after it opened in 2004.

Three Facility executives have since been released from federal prison after they each plead guilty to making an improper donation to former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove’s campaign. Richard Hall, former president of Mississippi Beef Processors, is still incarcerated in a facility in Kentucky, according to the Bureau of Prisons website, and is scheduled for release in May.

Sources: Schloegel, Barksdale among finalists for MDA post (Updated)

January 4th, 2012 No comments

Gov.-elect Phil Bryant will make what a press release called a “major agency appointment” Wednesday afternoon at a 2 p.m. news conference.

I’ve done some calling around since Tuesday, when the release was sent, and here’s what I’ve learned:

Two sources have said the new executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority will be named at the news conference. Each had a different name. One source said former Hancock Bank president and current Gulfport Mayor George Schloegel will succeed interim MDA director Leland Speed.

The other source, who had not heard Schloegel’s name connected to MDA, said Netscape founder and public education philanthropist Jim Barksdale will get the job. “He’s been vetted the past couple weeks,” the source said. “That’s who I’m going with until I hear different.”

For what it’s worth, a woman who answered the phone at Gulfport’s city hall at 10 a.m. said Schloegel was in his office, but was unavailable to take a call. To make it to Jackson for the 2 p.m. news conference, he’d have to leave the Coast by noon or shortly before.

I’ll update this throughout the day, so stay tuned.

UPDATE: Another source has said it’s Barksdale. So if you’re scoring at home, Barksdale leads Schloegel 2-1.

SECOND UPDATE: If you had Barksdale in your office pool, you win. Bryant said Barksdale will serve on an interim basis, and will help in the search for a permanent director. Bryant said the timetable for completing the search would be within 90-120 days, about the length of the legislative session. Barksdale will be paid $1, just as Speed was.

Barksdale will have to go through the confirmation process in the Senate if he still holds the job toward the end of the legislative session, when confirmations are normally done.

Bryant said Barksdale would immediately begin a review of MDA’s structure, to see if there are ways to make the agency more efficient and/or effective. Bryant praised Speed’s work and said the MDA has been great in recruiting industry to Mississippi, but added, “we can’t just say we’ll be like everybody else and be satisfied with that.”

Barksdale said he has filed his financial disclosure information with the Mississippi Ethics Commission, and is unaware of any business holding that would represent a conflict of interest with his new position.

For his part, Speed told the crowd gathered at the Woolfolk State Office Building that when Bryant asked him about bringing Barksdale to the MDA, “it took my breah away. This is a super step for our state.”