OTHER OPINION: No oil rigs in Gulf tourist areas

Back in April, the Harrison County Board of Supervisors reiterated its opposition to oil and gas drilling in the Mississippi Sound and within 12 miles south of the barrier islands.

The Sun Herald has editorially supported that position for years.

But Patrick Sullivan, president of the Mississippi Energy Institute, takes the supervisors to task in a forum on our Opinion page.

In defense of both the supervisors and ourselves, we offer the following.

Since Hurricane Katrina, the nonmanufacturing sectors of the Coast economy (such as retail and hospitality) have seen the heaviest job losses. Is it likely an out-of-work sales clerk or waiter would apply for work on an oil or gas rig?

Not that employment was used as the compelling reason to permit oil and gas rigs and platforms within sight of our shorelines. Previously, drilling proponents boasted about how much money oil and gas leases would generate. But that argument assumed a significant number of leases would be sold.

They haven’t been. And with present market conditions, they probably won’t be.

As for his claim that rigs and tourism go together, we see no evidence of that on the coast of either Florida or Texas. As for south Louisiana, it’s not a fun-in-the-sun tourist area, it’s a fishing area and the rigs draw fish. Granted, Alabama has one area with rigs offshore. But the rigs sprang up before the tourists showed up, so visitors knew what they were in for.

The question isn’t: Would rigs drive tourists away? The question is: Does the Coast want to be the place where that question is answered? The answer is “no.”

We commend the Harrison County Board of Supervisors for relying on common-sense concerns about safety and environmental damage, and the tourism industry’s suspicion that the sight of rigs in an area already hit by an oil spill would discourage tourism.

Because tourism is our bread and butter and oil and gas drilling is a gamble, the supervisors made the only logical choice.

Whether that’s a popular point of view in Jackson doesn’t matter. Folks there won’t have to live with the consequences of oil rigs.

Sun Herald

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