Cruisers along most of the Gulf Coast are keenly aware of why their waters and coastlines are nicknamed the “Energy Coast.” The waters off the shores of Texas, Louisiana and Alabama produce nearly a quarter of the United States’ oil and gas. The infrastructure is ubiquitous—massive oilrigs and platforms rise along shorelines, regattas race between them and they contribute to some of the greatest sportfishing in North America. Florida and Mississippi have resisted oil and gas exploration and drilling, and their waters are mostly free of these structures. This may be coming to an end in Mississippi, however, with an epic battle brewing.
The federally protected Gulf Islands National Seashore is home to an incredibly productive seafood industry located on a chain of barrier islands with a coast banking on beach tourism and casinos. With Mississippi’s economic development authority now rushing to start allowing seismic testing and drilling, many are calling foul. The 12 Miles South Coalition spearheaded by the Gulf Restoration Network is demanding the state conduct studies on the impact to tourism and the environment, especially when considering the small estimates of natural gas expected to be recoverable.
After allowing exploration and drilling around Dauphin Island, Alabama eventually learned its lesson. The state recognized the negatives to coastal tourism and enacted a ban on drilling in waters 15 miles out from Orange Beach and Gulf Shores. The 12 Miles South Coalition seeks a similar ban for Mississippi’s coastal waters.