Oil and gas drilling in Mississippi moves forward

JACKSON — Mississippi state officials published regulations Monday to lease state waters in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas drilling.

The regulations could set the stage for a rerun of the public wrangling over offshore exploration that has already roiled the state’s Gulf Coast twice in the past 15 years.

Mississippi Development Authority spokesman Dan Turner said the move could clear the way for a lease sale sometime in 2012, after a public comment period that ends Jan. 20. State officials said they believe that state waters largely hold natural gas, cutting the threat of large oil spills. They said drilling could produce $250 million to $500 million in royalties for the state over time, almost of all which is legally directed to education.