In Oil-and-Gas Speak, “Democracy” is the Dirtiest Word

Talk about arrogance and bigotry. The Mississippi Sun-Herald reports that Tempers flare over drilling legislation. Seems the oil and gas folks were angry that (1) Newspapers reported on their attempt to sneak through legislation easing drilling; (2) People — poor black people — got uppity about it.

A House vote on a bill that could result in natural gas drilling in the Mississippi Sound was postponed, and a hasty meeting to try to allay the fears and anger of some Coast lawmakers was held Thursday evening.

Prior to the meeting, oil and gas industry lobbyists chided the media for “stirring things up down there” by reporting about the legislation. Lawmakers over the last two days have fielded calls and messages from constituents and environmentalists concerned about drilling, an issue that has waxed and waned for years on the Coast.

“We quite frankly have not had opposition from anybody but tree huggers and Democrats,” said Marvin L. Oxley, an oil and gas geologist who's helping lobby for the law changes. “Don't use that, say, 'environmentalists.' By Democrats, I mean the blacks. Don't write blacks. Were you in the Judiciary hearing? That's most of who had questions about this.”

Tempers flared early in the Thursday night meeting, which was called by House Oil and Gas Committee Chairman John Reeves, R-Jackson, who sponsored the House legislation and pushed it through his committee earlier in the week.

Some lawmakers from Harrison, Hancock and Jackson counties had told the media they felt like they were left out of the loop on legislation “in their back yards,” which moved very quickly through committees in both the House and Senate.

Some complained that the bill's short title, which read, “Mineral Lease Commission; transfer authority to Mississippi Major Economic Impact Authority” was couched in deception.

“I read in The Sun Herald that a couple of you said this was on a fast track and you didn't know anything about it,” Reeves said at the meeting's opening. “I'm a stand-up chairman, and anything I do is in the wide open and I don't have to hide anything.”

He began to chide Coast lawmakers a little, but Rep. Michael Janus, R-Biloxi, interrupted Reeves: “That's bull-t,” Janus said. “If you want to use this meeting to waste our time, then we might as well leave. I'm free to make comments to the newspaper whenever I want to. Even the title of this bill is deceptive.”

Democracy, what a concept.

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