[Coral-List] Bring Back the Gulf

Steve Kolian stevekolian at hotmail.com
Mon Aug 4 18:26:40 EDT 2014

Dear Ms. Quirolo,
It is not true that major oil and gas (O&G) companies in the Gulf of
Mexico (GOM) want to leave their retired offshore platforms in the water after
their useful life in minerals production. O&G companies are responsible for
platform navigational, personal, environmental, and fishery liabilities from
cradle to grave. The coastal states in the north-central and western GOM have
created artificial reef planning areas in an effort to provide a liability
firewall to the previous O&G owners. 

O&G companies have only “reefed” 8-10% of all the structures (~3,500+)
removed from the GOM. The State artificial reef programs are a modestly
profitable (for the O&G industry) or break-even economic option for the participating
O&G companies.  When a platform is
“reefed”, the majority of fish either perish or are lost to the environment. The
invertebrate community that exhibits a preference for the upper 25 meters of
the water column beneath a platform usually do not survive when a
platform is re-oriented in the water.   

The O&G companies, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), and National
Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) know that there are protected coral,
octocoral, and hydroids attached to many of the existing operating and idle structures.
It is estimated that 49 species of Federally managed fish and 25 species of
protected invertebrates utilize, to varying degrees, the platform substrates
for feeding, spawning, mating, and growing to maturity. Two species of
endangered turtles including the Hawk’s bill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate) and threatened Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) forage, rest, and sometimes sleep on offshore platforms.  

The removal of offshore platforms conflicts with the laws published in
Sustainable Fisheries Act/Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management
Act (“Magnuson Act”, 16 U.S.C.A.  § 1801,
et seq.), Endangered Species Act (“ESA”, 16 U.S.C.A.Ch. 35, et seq.) and
National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”, 42 U.S.C.A.  Ch.  55,
et seq.). 

The primary concern amongst all parties is that the cost of
environmental compliance associated with producing a barrel of oil in the GOM
will increase.  Platform operators would
accrue NEPA, ESA, and EFH compliance expenses when they perform routine
maintenance, as they often scrape off thousands of marine invertebrates during
routine subsurface maintenance.  

NEPA compliance for routine maintenance would be a minor annoyance
compared to the more difficult legal problem of removing a platform.  Federal regulations (30 CFR 250.1725 through
250.1730 Subpart Q) require that the platforms be removed and the site turned
to pre-production conditions.  If these
environmental laws applied to the offshore oil and gas industry, the offshore
operators would have to prepare a NEPA-compliance document for the platform
that describes the routine subsurface maintenance.  When an oil and gas company removed a
platform, they would have to mitigate for the loss of coral reef habitat, which
may include creating coral reef habitat elsewhere. 

Money cannot be a reason to avoid mandates issued in NEPA, ESA and the
Magnuson Act. It does not matter if they are man-made. NEPA obligates the lead
Federal agency to evaluate reasonable alternative actions to blasting oil and
gas platforms for platform removal and consider avoidance and mitigation of
adverse environmental effects.  If there
are coral, octocoral, and hydroids are on them, they cannot be removed.  BOEM and NOAA Fisheries must rigorously
explore and objectively evaluate alternatives to destroying the coral reef
organisms on oil and gas platforms.  Therefore,
the NEPA analysis should examine a range of alternative beneficial uses for
retired platforms, which should include alternatives that preserve the coral reef habitats.  

Best Regards,
Steve Kolian

> Date: Sun, 3 Aug 2014 20:06:24 -0400
> From: dquirolo at gmail.com
> To: eugeneshinn at mail.usf.edu
> CC: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Bring Back the Gulf
> Sorry to burst your bubble Gene, but there is no money trail here.  I am
> not on anyone's payroll.  This was a six month grant to investigate this
> topic and we've done our work and published our findings.  It is a timely
> release of our extensive review of the issue, free of the excessive
> influence of the oil and gas lobby as has been the case previously on this
> issue.  Now it is up to Interior to reassess the program as they have
> announced they intend to do.  All the best, DeeVon
> On Fri, Aug 1, 2014 at 1:56 PM, Eugene Shinn <eugeneshinn at mail.usf.edu>
> wrote:
> > Having served on the Dept. of Interior Minerals Management Service
> > science committee (3 years and before the name change) and having spent
> > many hours diving and researching and photographing marine life under
> > offshore rigs I am well aware of the extensive scientific research done
> > on the environmental effects of rigs and artificial reefs in general.
> > These rigs exist in an area consisting of miles and miles of featureless
> > gooey mud populated mainly by shrimp. I am also aware of the marine life
> > lost when explosives are placed in the rig legs in order blow them off
> > below the "mud line" as stipulated by existing regulations.Almost every
> > fish down there including thousands of pounds of red snapper, grouper,
> > angel fish and other tropicals that depend on these habitats, including
> > protected turtles, become shark food when rigs are blasted loose from
> > the bottom. Why is there no concern for the bicatch discarded by
> > shrimpers.  One has to consider where the idea and political motivation
> > to remove these essential marine habitats from the Gulf is coming from.
> > The decision certainly is not science or humanitarian-based and neither
> > does it make ecological sense. We can only scratch our heads and wonder,
> > especially since the secretary of the interior who created the idle iron
> > project has moved on. The authors of this book have mixed damage from
> > oil with iron, a primary ocean nutrient. These rigs are no longer
> > extracting oil so oil is irrelevant to their argument. Is the makings of
> > another NGO being developed to provide tax benefits to the unwary?
> > Follow the money. Gene
> >
> > --
> >
> >
> > No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
> > ------------------------------------ -----------------------------------
> > E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
> > University of South Florida
> > College of Marine Science Room 221A
> > 140 Seventh Avenue South
> > St. Petersburg, FL 33701
> > <eugeneshinn at mail.usf.edu>
> > Tel 727 553-1158
> > ---------------------------------- -----------------------------------
> >
> > _______________________________________________
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> > Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> > http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
> >
> -- 
> DeeVon Quirolo
> www.bringbackthegulf.org
> www.neighborsagainstmining.org
> www.reefrelieffounders.com
> www.reefreliefarchive.org
> www.sunshinestatecleanenergycoalition.org
> You must be the change you want to see in the world.
> Mahatma Gandhi
> We can do no great things; only small things with great love.
> Mother Theresa
> The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics
> whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can
> dream of things that never were.
> John Fitzgerald Kennedy
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