Texas to DOI: Hands Off Our Oil Rigs

DOI mandate would blast rigs like this and remove the rubble.

DOI mandate would blast rigs like this and remove the rubble.

Jesse Cancelmo

Memo to Ken Salazar (U.S. Dept. of Interior): Are you listening, Mr. Secretary?

In a very short time, it seems the tide is turning beneath a growing groundswell of opposition to Interior's mandate that would destroy and remove 650 coral reefs (growing on decommissioned oil rigs) in a five-year period. The latest bit of good news for the Gulf of Mexico came on Friday (April 27) with the release of an April 24 letter to Salazar from Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Interior’s “Idle Iron” policy directive, writes Perry, “will have profound negative implications for Texas.” He refers to a “vast forest of energy-related structures ... generally regarded as the largest man-made artificial-reef system in the world.”

Perry notes that DOI’s mandate to remove hundreds of rigs came in the aftermath of the 2010 oil spill, but now, “a more balanced, reasoned response is required in light of irrefutable evidence that these structures are the basis for thriving ecosystems that harbor and sustain an immense diversity of live above and below the waterline, including seabirds, fish, turtles, marine mammals and corals.”

Perry points out that this country needs to be protecting marine-life habitats (versus destroying them), concluding: “I urge you to reconsider this policy and look at alternatives to achieve our shared goal of protecting the marine environment while conserving these valuable artificial reefs.”

This should be met with resounding applause by millions of saltwater anglers, as well as recreational divers and environmentalists, whatever their political persuasions.

So, take note that in addition to the recreational-fishing and -diving communities' outspoken opposition to your plan, in just the past week we've seen:

1. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council vote unanimously to begin the process leading to formal designation of Gulf rigs as both Essential Fish Habitat and Habitat Areas of Particular Concern;

2. The powerful and influential organization, the Environmental Defense Fund, come out solidly against rig removal and in favor of Sen. David Vitter's (R-La) Rigs-to-Reefs legislation that would save these rigs; and

3. Now, the governor of Texas formally asking that decommissioned offshore rigs not be removed.

At the very least, it seems to me that Interior should announce an immediate moratorium on its directive, allowing time to reconsider and re-assess it’s post-oil-spill mandate.

The groundswell for that is clearly growing.

Are you listening, Mr. Salazar?