Coast Residents Opposed to Drilling Near the Barrier Islands

Contributor: Sarah Duffey
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Updated: 1/06 9:34 pm
The Sierra Club and Gulf Restoration Network are taking on the Mississippi Development Authority (M.D.A.) in this ongoing legal battle. The Coast groups have filed an appeal against the M.D.A.'s proposed rules for offshore drilling, rules they say would open the door for oil companies to build rigs as close as one mile off the shores of Mississippi's Barrier Islands. This is something the group is determined to keep from happening. For years, Captain Louis Skremetta has taken Gulf Coast tourists to Ship Island to enjoy its natural beauty. He says his business and coastal tourism will sink if oil rigs are built near the Barrier Islands. Skremetta says, "We think it’s unnecessary and inappropriate, and it will adversely affect tourism travel in this area once people find out that drilling rigs are setting up in the Mississippi Sound. All you have to do is go next door to Dauphin Island and see what happened to that beautiful island. They're surrounded by gas rigs and the tourism development there is hardly anything compared to west Florida where there is a ban on drilling." Skremetta is not alone in his beliefs. Skremetta and a whole bus load of people are taking their fight to the state capital, where they have filed a suit in hopes of keeping oil rigs away from the Barrier Islands. Linda St. Martin, a member of the Sierra Club, says, "They better reconsider because the state cannot afford to take a hit like this on their big cash cow: the tourism of the Mississippi Gulf Coast."

Although the Mississippi Development Authority declined to comment on camera, they have stood by their claim that drilling in the Gulf would actually boost the local economy to the tune of 560 million dollars over the next 30 years. Skremetta says, “The M.D.A. hasn't done its homework and the costs outweigh the benefits. They have not prepared an economic study. They're pushing this without any consideration for the tourism economy, and the quality of life of the Gulf Coast." These Coast residents aren't totally against drilling for oil in coastal waters, they just say there need to be boundaries. St. Martin also states, "It’s not necessary to pick one or the other, if they will just keep their drilling and confine it to an area 12 miles south of the Barrier Islands." The Hinds County judge has taken the arguments into consideration. He has yet to reveal when he will hand down a decision on whether it is the M.D.A.’s responsibility to consider the economic impact of their drilling rules and regulations.

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