Effort Initiated to Ban Drilling in State Parks

Effort Initiated to Ban Drilling in State Parks

The Mississippi Development Authority plans to market state owned lands to oil and gas companies for drilling and exploration. Lease agreements mean big profits for the state, but not everyone’s on board. State parks and wildlife refuges are included in the new regulations MDA will soon adopt.

The idea of oil companies drilling in mississippi’s parks isn’t sitting well for some. “that’s a sensitive issue,” says State Rep. Jamie Franks. “State parks are something Mississippians love and enjoy going to, and they don’t want them being drilled for gas and oil.”

“It’s quite understandable folks are concerned about that,” says Jack Moody, who’s heading up the Mineral Lease Program at MDA. “I think they envision a rig they would walk into their favorite state park and there it would be making holes and noise and pollution, but that will not happen.”

Moody says state parks have been leased out to companies in the past, and in most cases people didn’t even know they were there, thanks to new technology. He says regulations are more rigorous now that MDA is in charge. Lawmakers shifted control from department of environmental quality in 2004. “There are a number of regulatory agencies who will be dealing with these issues,” says Moody. “We are very sensitive to perception and the sensitive areas in the environment.”

But opponents to the new regulations say they’ll leave the public in the dark. Negotiations will be made in private. Louie Miller says the non-profit group The Sierra Club will file a legal appeal if the regulations are adopted as proposed. “We feel it’s very serious and we feel it’s worth our while to spend our resources to block this proposal,” says Miller.

MDA Exec. Dir. Leland Speed could adopt those new regulations as early as next week. If that happens Rep. Franks says he’ll craft legislation in January banning any drilling at state parks.

A final public hearing on the new regulations was held Friday morning in Jackson.

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