[Coral-List] Bring Back the Gulf

DeeVon Quirolo dquirolo at gmail.com
Thu Jul 31 13:08:32 EDT 2014

*Spreading Oil Rig Dumpsites in the Gulf of Mexico and calling them Reefs?*

Right now, this summer, the Interior Department is revisiting their
policies governing the disposal of old drilling rigs and other petroleum
infrastructure throughout the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  With
thousands of rigs due for decommissioning in the next few years, we can
either decide to help restore the Gulf of Mexico to its former vitality, or
allow it to become a junkyard of epic proportions.

"Bring Back the Gulf" is a new book released today by The Ocean Foundation
and The Herbert W. Hoover Foundation that exposes misconceptions being
promoted by the oil industry on the merits of dumping abandoned oil rigs
into the Gulf of Mexico.   Many in the scientific and conservation
community recently sent a letter encouraging responsible decommissioning to
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who is currently reconsidering how best to
deal with the upcoming tidal wave of abandoned rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

At this point in time there are more than 5,000 active leases in the Gulf
of Mexico with over 2,600 rigs destined for decommissioning, and while not
every one of those could find itself in line for seafloor disposal,
companies will no doubt pursue that cheaper option for many of them.  The
Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River Delta, like the few other similar
lush river deltas around the planet, were at one time among the most
productive ecosystems on earth, but now have become a vast industrial and
chemical experiment, and the results of that experiment are not looking

The good news is that whenever an oil company has leased a federal offshore
tract in the Gulf, it has at the same time also signed a contract promising
that it will remove that drilling rig at the end of its useful life, reuse
or recycle the components, seal off all remaining wellheads, and then
restore the seafloor to as-near natural conditions as possible.  The
Interior Department calls this their “Idle Iron” policy.  No “Idle Iron” is
to be left in place as a public liability, to present a hazard to
navigation, or to put Gulf waters at risk of pollution, especially in the
event of hurricane damage--a growing concern.

The oil and gas industry would like to have us all believe that leaving a
spent oil platform in place, or cutting it off and dumping it on the
seafloor nearby, magically creates something resembling a coral reef.   In
fact, the rigs instead provide a substrate for biofouling communities,
encourage the proliferation of non-native invasive species and aggregate
fish, leading to overfishing in the Gulf.  In addition, scientists agree
the Gulf is not habitat-limited, reducing any public need for such
structures at a time when existing rigs have created the largest underwater
artificial habitat system in the world, comprising 5% of all Gulf habitat.

A clever and persistent oil industry public relations campaign has, for too
long, dominated the discussion of how best to responsibly dispose of “Idle
Iron”. The Interior Department continues to be under great political
pressure to allow more and more waivers exempting companies from their
“Idle Iron” removal policies, because oil interests can generally expect to
save at least half of their end-of-life decommissioning costs by just using
seabed disposal.  Now, while Interior is reassessing their “Idle Iron”
policy and considering stronger decommissioning regulations, and at a time
when so many rigs are coming up for decommissioning, it is important for
the public and the scientific community to consider a valid analysis of the
current policy and its implications.

"Bring Back the Gulf" is a timely publication that provides that analysis
and a compelling case for the fundamental steps that must be taken now to
improve the chance that we may someday bring back the Gulf of Mexico.  The
authors conclude that we need to stop the routine issuance of waivers to
the “Idle Iron” policy at the Department of Interior, carefully re-examine
what has been misleadingly called the “Rigs-to-Reefs” program, and involve
the public in the federal and state decision-making process that has been
enabling the oil industry to increasingly avoid their corporate

You can now obtain your own complimentary download of the “Bring Back the
Gulf” eBook in both Kindle and iPad versions and PDF at:



Richard Charter  waterway at monitor.net

and DeeVon Quirolo  dquirolo at gmail.com


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