We’d Love to Hear Your Thoughts, Mr. Secretary

Will Interior Secretary Ken Salazar Finally Step Up to the Plate and Respond to Public Concerns About his “Idle Iron” Oil Rig Policy?

Grouper 44

Grouper 44

A rare yellowfin grouper lurks among the coral-covered legs of a Gulf oil rig.Jesse Cancelmo / cancelmophoto.com

In the ongoing struggle among recreational-fishing, sport-diving and environmental groups over the ongoing process of “idle iron” removal of coral-covered decommissioned oil/gas platforms from the Gulf of Mexico, the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA) has written to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, to halt removing these rigs for now.

“We believe these platforms should not be removed or modified until an appropriate study has been made of each to gain an understanding of their environmental, social and economic impacts on the immediate vicinity,” writes Tom Ingram, executive director of DEMA.

Ingram points out that while the intent of placing these structures in the Gulf was not to create artificial-reef habitat, that is nevertheless the result.

The letter presents an array of fundamental ecological realities that would weigh against removing virtually all non-producing structures from the Gulf in coming years —an Interior Department mandate — noting that the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has estimated that a rig of “typical” size “provides 2-3 acres of living and feeding habitat for thousands of underwater species.”

Considering this, Ingram adds a particularly salient comment, one that reflects the bizarro, down-the-rabbit-hole nature of this administration’s mandate to continue destroying rigs, willy nilly:

“Under any other circumstances, the removal, alteration or destruction of a two- to three-acre living reef or bottom substrate with thousands of underwater species would only be allowed after extensive study and long consideration by environmental organizations, government agencies and the public.”

Ingram cites significant economic factors as well.

“From a direct economic point of view,” writes Ingram, “BOEM has estimated that these structures account for about $324 million annually in revenue by providing locations for recreational fishing and scuba diving,” as well as more than 5,500 full time jobs.

You can read the entire letter here.

I say: Well said, Mr. Ingram.

Still, Ingram is basically asking the same sorts of questions that many other groups as well as governors and federal legislators have been asking for more than a year. And as far as I know, they have not been satisfactorily addressed or in most cases addressed at all. How is it that a public official such as the Secretary of the Interior can ostensibly blow off the concerns of such large constituencies?

Many thousands of fishermen, divers, environmentalists, coastal small businesses, governors and congressmen would love to hear your thoughts on the specific points and proposal posed by DEMA’s letter, Mr. Secretary.

Or will this once again fall on deaf ears?