Mississippi Senate Sends Offshore Drilling Bill to Governor

The Mississippi State Senate has sent a bill to the governor to permit offshore drilling in Mississippi waters.

On Monday, senators agreed to House changes to the bill, giving it final legislative approval.

The legislation strips oil and gas lease authority from the Department of Environmental Quality and gives it to the Mississippi Development Authority. The move was supported by the oil and natural gas industry.

About three-quarters of the tax and lease proceeds from drilling would go to the state education trust fund and the remainder to local county governments.

Predictions have been that the state has reserves that could bring in $1 billion or more to state coffers over a couple of decades or so.

The House had amended the bill to require local county governments to use 50% of proceeds from any drilling to reduce property taxes.

Environmentalists, coast governments and others objected to the legislation. It was changed to prohibit near-shore drilling in most of the Mississippi Sound, except for areas in Hancock and Jackson counties near the state lines.