Though it’s hard to imagine, sometimes oil and gas rigs in the ocean can be a force for good. Offshore rigs act as artificial reefs for wildlife, providing plants and sea life a place to bunker down. Which is why a recent announcement from the Obama administration, which relaxes rules regarding the removal of dead rigs (not the parts that contain oil — just the platforms), is a small win for the environment.
Fishermen and conservationists have been lobbying the government to soften up on existing policies. In recent years, when a rig was no longer in use, the government required that all of the equipment be removed. According to FuelFix, less than 10 percent of about 800 non-producing oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico have ended up in the program since 2010, while more than 200 have been removed each year. Now, a new policy will give states more flexibility to review and designate dead rigs as artificial reefs, allowing them to stay in place.
Known as the Rigs-to-Reefs program, a rig can be reviewed and left in place when it won’t cause a problem with shipping lanes and when it will benefit wildlife. Both the fuel companies who own the rigs, who no longer have to food the bill for removal, and conservationists benefit from the new policy. But the real winner is the sea life that has made its home on the rigging.
images from BSEE