Lawmakers Discuss Gulf Oil Spill

By: Ashley Conroy Email
By: Ashley Conroy Email

Twenty-three Mississippi legislators participated in the House Select Committee to try to solve outlying issues involving the coastal crisis.

The goal of these hearings was for lawmakers to receive as much information as possible with the anticipation that new legislation might result from the oil spill.

About a dozen state agencies attended the hearing, but the group lawmakers anxiously waited to hear from, BP, did not attend.

"Considering the many officials that BP has on standby in the Gulf Coast region, it is simply incomprehensible that the company could not send at least one to these hearings to give our citizens, lawmakers and business leaders their viewpoint on this oil spill disaster," said Speaker of the House of Representatives, Billy McCoy.

Most lawmakers at the hearing were concerned about the environmental and health impact from dispersants being released into the water.

"If there is an element in this dispersant that can make either through, you know, not necessarily consuming the seafood, but actually being in the water, we need to know about it," said Representative Steven Palazzo, (R) Biloxi.

Director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, Mike Womack, said from his understanding there is no threat and people shouldn't be afraid to visit Mississippi's Gulf Coast.

"If you drive along US-90 on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and look out, the water doesn't look any different," said Womack. "It has been tested; it's just as safe as it was fifty days ago."

This brought up another concern: the state's tourism industry. Mississippi has seen consistent revenues fall below projections for the past 21 months.

Palazzo said he's also concerned that BP officials won't pay state taxes back to small businesses, which he says could have a trickle down effect.

"Especially the municipalities, because this is going to affect our schools, our localities," Palazzo said.

Speaker McCoy says he anticipates there will be a series of additional hearings on the oil spill over the next several months.

He said he hopes BP will take a second look at attending in the future for Mississippi lawmakers that have many unanswered questions.

"Meetings will be in place for the next several months," McCoy said. "Again, we hope BP will show up at some point in time."


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