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

Dan Turner, spokesman for the Mississippi Development Authority, says the move could clear the way for a lease sale sometime in 2012, after a public comment period. State officials say that state waters largely hold natural gas, cutting the threat of large oil spills. They say drilling could produce $250 million to $500 million in royalties for the state over time.

Louie Miller, head of the Mississippi Sierra Club, lambastes the move. He says Gov. Haley Barbour is "blowing a kiss" to oil companies weeks before leaving office. He says it would spoil the Gulf Islands National Seashore and that drilling would drive away tourists, outweighing economic benefits.