Gulf Islands Conservancy, Inc.

Dedicated to the preservation and protection of the barrier islands and coastal wetlands of Mississippi.

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Gulf Islands Conservancy, Inc.
Post Office Box 1203
Gulfport, MS  39502-1203
228.323.1668

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Position Paper of Gulf Islands Conservancy
and Mississippi Sierra Club

This is a stealth amendment, which is controversial legislation tacked onto a Senate appropriations bill. This is an underhanded way to do business. They are trying to authorize potentially damaging seismic oil and gas exploration activities on the fragile barrier islands that make up our national park, the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The amendment allows oil and gas drilling under the park as well. If jet skis are considered too detrimental for the national park, what is the impact of setting off dynamite charges within the park in order to explore for oil and gas?

Sun Herald April 9, 2005

Knowledgeable people have clearly stated that oil and gas drilling will lead to subsidence, which is the sinking of the islands. As oil and gas are withdrawn, portions of the land surrounding and under the island will sink in order to fill the vacuum that results. As land subsides, or sinks, the islands become more vulnerable to “washover” during hurricanes. You need look no further than the neighboring state of Louisiana to view this well documented geologic phenomenon where many square miles of Louisiana coast and wetlands are lost on an annual basis. While providing less than 3 percent of the state’s job base, the oil industry is responsible for destroying up to 40 percent of the state’s coastal wetlands.

Sun Herald March 18, 2005

There are appropriate locations to drill for oil and gas offshore, and there are inappropriate. It is inappropriate to endanger the crown jewels of Mississippi, which are our Gulf Islands National Park. The legislation, drafted by the oil industry executive Joe Simms, opened up an astonishing 225,000 acres of water bottoms surrounding the park islands for oil and gas drilling. The Coast has a $500 plus million dollar tourism industry. Why would we want to jeopardize that?

The Biloxi City Council voted unanimously to oppose the legislation that would allow oil and gas drilling in state waters off the Mississippi Coast. The resolution, which was offered by Mayor A.J. Holloway, said that offshore oil and gas drilling “may diminish the quality and appearance of coastal wetlands and horizon” and “will adversely affect the tourism and seafood industry.” The Jackson and Harrison county boards of supervisors have passed resolution as well.

The April 15, 2005 issue of Southern Living Magazine again lists Ship Island as one of the editor’s favorite spots to see a sunset, enjoy at stroll, go stargazing and more. The selection of Ship Island “means it is a great place to get away from everything manmade……If you want to go out and see nature at it’s best, see the peace and beauty of the south. This is the kind of place you go to.” This will cease to exist with oil and gas drilling around the islands.

If you want to see what oil and gas drilling has done for tourism, visit Dauphin Island. There isn’t a motel or hotel on Dauphin Island that you and your family would want to stay in.The islands beaches are filthy, noisy and dominated by massive unsightly drilling platforms. Even worse, there is a unnatural turbidity (murkiness) of the water. Real estate values have been impacted as well.

In addition, Exxon Mobil was fined $11.9 billion for attempting to defraud the state of Alabama out of hundreds of million of dollars in offshore oil and gas royalties. This was the largest punitive damage award in the U.S. in 2003. Montgomery County Circuit Judge Tracy McCooey said the company’s efforts revealed a “concerted, clandestine and multifaceted scheme” to defraud the state.

Understand that we aren’t just risking a natural treasure. If we lose the islands, we lose a large portion of the seafood industry AND we lose protection from hurricanes that could end up costing hundreds of millions.

The Clarion Ledger recently reported that $1 billion is being invested in high rise condominium development on the Coast in the next five years. The Mississippi Gulf Coast attracts such development because it provides one of the last unobstructed views of the southern horizon.

Clarion Ledger April 2, 2005

Finally; the federal government needs to buy out the mineral rights from the state; completing the job of purchasing the National Park. This will provide money up front to the education trust fund in one lump sum. Rather than “gambling” on possibly discovering and extracting oil and gas reserves five to ten years from now. This idea is not new; the Bush Adm. appropriated 235 million to purchase mineral rights under Big Cypress Natl. Preserve in Florida in 2001 and 2002.

The U.S. uses 25% of the world’s energy yet only has 3% to 5% of the world’s reserves. Drilling will NOT solve the problem BUT conservation WILL. If we reach 40 mpg as the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard for fleets, which is achievable with hybrid cars, that would eliminate the need for offshore oil and gas development and our dependence on Middle Eastern oil.  

Call or write Sen. Cochran, and tell him No Drilling! Call Leland Speed, Dir. Of Ms. Development Authority who is in charge of leasing and express your opposition.

  • Sen. Thad Cochran 113 Dirksen Off. Bldg Wash. D.C. 20510 call:202-224-5054
  • Leland Speed P.O. Box 849 Jackson Ms.39205-0849 call: 601-359-3449.
Copyright 2005, Gulf Islands Conservancy, Inc.