|Preserve in Place|
|Saturday, May 12, 2012|
PRESERVE IN PLACE PROGRAM
In October 2010, the Department of Interior (DOI) issued a directive that calls for the removal of all non-producing oil rigs from the Gulf of Mexico. From unique coral to recreational diving and fishing, South Texans benefit from the natural fish habitats flourishing around Gulf Coast oil rigs. These reefs are part of our culture as our schools incorporate the study of artificial reefs into their curriculum and the Texas State Aquarium's Islands of Steel exhibit gives visitors an up close look at these valuable habitats. Offshore rigs, safely plugged well below the ocean floor, are now being pulled up left and right by the Department of Interior, with no planning, destroying valuable ecosystems. I urge DOI to reconsider this directive and the damaging economic and environmental impact it has on Gulf Coast communities desperate to preserve these precious environments.
May 10, 2012
The Honorable Ken Salazar
The U.S. Department of Interior’s directive issued in October of 2010 ordered that all non-producing oil rigs be plugged and any remaining structures be removed. Today, almost 2 years later, the crippling impacts of this program are already being felt, as several artificial habitats off the Gulf Coast are being destroyed, resulting in fish kills, reduced recreational diving, and damages to sport fishing areas.
These structures provide habitat to dozens of species of fish and marine life, many of which are structure-dependent. Not only are fisherman, the oil industry, and recreational users aware of the positive impact these rigs have, but our schools are now incorporating artificial reefs into their curriculum, using charts and diagrams to illustrate their environmental benefits, including one published by the Department of Interior. Even our children recognize the importance of these artificial habitats. Removing these rigs and disrupting decades of environmental progress is directly in contrast to what our children are being taught.
I believe this directive is merely a knee-jerk response to the Gulf oil spill and creates more problems than it solves. While legislative and scientific efforts are being made to preserve these valuable habitats, rigs are being pulled up left and right, leaving no time for finding a way to salvage these ecosystems. Instead of pre-emptively removing the rigs, the Department of Interior, specifically the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), should work to quicken the approval of these rigs for artificial reefing purposes or allow for additional time to determine a safe and environmentally sound method to reef the structure in place. There is virtually no risk that these depleted wells, plugged well under the ocean floor will cause any spillage or environmental damage.
The Department of Interior should also address the economic and environmental implications of this directive that affects recreation and fishing and diving along the Gulf Coast.
My colleagues on the Federal and State level have repeatedly stressed the importance of this issue, and I ask you to reconsider this directive until further research has been done on its implications.