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MDA publishes rules governing offshore exploration

GULF OF MEXICO — The Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) has published draft rules and regulations governing offshore seismic surveying and mineral leasing activities in the areas of state waters that the Mississippi Legislature has designated as open to mineral exploration and production.

MDA is required to publish these draft rules and regulations with the Secretary of State’s Office prior to filing finalized rules and regulations, in accordance with the state Administrative Procedures Act.

Like Alabama and Louisiana, Mississippi is presumed to have sizeable natural gas resources off its shores. While some oil resources might exist, it is principally natural gas that is expected to be found and produced in state waters once exploration is underway. Seismic surveying activities will provide a better sense of the size and distribution of Mississippi’s offshore resources.

Offshore mineral leasing, exploration and production can only take place in certain areas approved by the State Legislature. In 2004, the Legislature restricted the blocks for lease to areas predominantly south of the barrier islands so production platforms would not be seen from the vast majority of coastal communities and would not obstruct the scenic views from the Mississippi mainland. Prior to 2004, the entire Mississippi Sound and all of Mississippi’s state waters were open for offshore mineral leasing and exploration. The vast majority of the Mississippi Sound will be off limits under the new rules.

“Now is the time to look toward our future and join our neighboring states in leasing our offshore mineral rights to allow for the responsible production of our natural gas resources,” said Leland Speed, executive director of MDA. “With these rules and regulations in place, Mississippi can begin to issue permits for offshore seismic surveying and lease mineral rights in the approved areas, important first steps as we work to develop these natural resources and continue to pursue Mississippi’s economic development.”

After the 2004 legislation that limited the areas for lease went into effect, the State Mineral Leasing Office was moved from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to MDA, and MDA was tasked with publishing rules and regulations related to seismic surveying permitting and with mineral leasing in the approved areas of Mississippi’s waters.

To view the draft rules and regulations, or for more information on how offshore seismic surveying, mineral leasing and subsequent natural gas exploration and development activities will benefit the state, visit www.msenergyfuture.com.

MDA is accepting public comments and questions related to the draft rules and regulations. Public comments must be received in writing no later than Friday, Jan. 20, 2012, at 5 p.m. CST. Comments and questions may be submitted via email to minerallease@mississippi.org or through the mail, addressed to the State Mineral Leasing Office, Mississippi Development Authority, P.O. Box 849, Jackson, Mississippi 39205. In addition, comments and questions can be submitted via Web form from www.msenergyfuture.com.


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