Oil spill impact to be seen now, well into future

Published 6:00 pm Sunday, June 6, 2010

Regardless of where the ultimate fault for the oil spill in theGulf of Mexico lies, it threatens to have negative ramificationsfar beyond the coastal waters of Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama orFlorida.

That is why response actions taken now and in the comings weeksand months are so vital.

The immediate response must be to stop the flow of oil. Morethan a month has passed since the rig explosion that prompted thespill and nearly everyone believes it’s past time for it to havebeen fixed.

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With millions of gallons of oil already in the Gulf, theenvironmental impact in the immediate area is already being seen.How much worse it gets comes down to the how quickly the flow canbe stopped and the whims of Mother Nature on where the spilled oilgoes.

Despite the reality that the coast remains open for tourism,fears being stoked by television media threaten to heap greatereconomic misery on coastal communities that rely on it for theirvitality. Linked to that are the restaurants that get many of theirmenu items from fishermen and others whose livelihoods revolvearound bringing the food from sea to shore.

Beyond coastal communities, however, is the potential impact oflost tax revenue for the rest of the state.

While sales tax dollars may originate in Biloxi, for example,only a portion is returned to that community for its specific use.The remainder flows to the capital where it becomes part of thestate’s general fund to help provide services from Pascagoula toTupelo and from Meridian to Vicksburg.

That is how the environmental consequences can impact the stateas a whole in the near-term.

Potential longer-term troubles could result from calls tocurtail oil exploration and similar activities in the Gulf.

While feelings toward BP are quickly turning from frustration toanger, that anger and environmental activism cannot be allowed tostop the drilling. To borrow the familiar phrase, we can’t throwthe baby out with the bathwater.

From direct employment as offshore workers to relatedbusinesses, the reason is that thousands of lives depend on theactivity for their livings. And those workers don’t just come fromthe coast, but from Southwest Mississippi and other parts of thestate.

Yes, the current situation is bad, but unnecessary overreactionmust not allow it to get worse for not only the coast but for allof Mississippi.