MOBILE, Ala. (WPMI) Charter boat captains, anglers, and scientists were appalled by undercover video Local 15 obtained showing a red snapper fish kill following a rig demolition.
So was Congressman Jo Bonner.
“It made me sick to my stomach,” Representative Bonner told Local 15 in a sit-down interview Monday, “It was explosive, no pun intended. I can’t say enough of thanks to Channel 15 for bringing this story to the surface.”
After seeing the video, Bonner and a Mississippi Congressman Steven Palazzo sent a cease and desist letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, demanding his department suspend the “Idle Iron” policy. The federal policy requires operators to dismantle old, abandoned oil and gas rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. The problem is contractors hired by the operators are using explosives to bring down the rigs. While it's the cheapest and quickest way to dismantle a rig, it's also far more destructive than cutting a rig and laying it down on the sea floor.
“We asked for an immediate cease and desist, a stop to this program,” Bonner said.
Not only are the demolitions destroying rigs that have become artificial reefs with thriving coral habitats, a single demolition can kill thousands of pounds of fish. In the undercover video obtained by Local 15, the demolition killed a large amount of red snapper, a federally protected species.
Bonner said he still hasn’t received a response from Secretary Salazar, and hopes to speak to him in person at the State of the Union Tuesday night.
”I'm going to look the man right in the eye," Bonner said, "I don’t know anyone who can defend this."
The "Idle Iron" policy is overseen by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, one of the Department of Interior's agencies. In September 2010, the BOEM announced they would "require oil and gas companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico to set permanent plugs in nearly 3,500 nonproducing wells and dismantle about 650 oil and gas production platforms if they are no longer being used for exploration or production."
Three rigs are reportedly dismantled every week, according to a leading marine scientist.