Mr. Oilman, tear down this rig!

Rep. Raul Grijalva chairs the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, and co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Throughout his congressional career, he has demonstrated a unique ability to understand and creatively address the problems of ordinary Americans. His Right to Rent Act is one example.

Rep. Grijalva has another new idea, one that would help both the environment and the people of the Gulf devastated by the BP oil spill. A 2007 report prepared by Louisiana State University for the Minerals and Management Service (MMS) of the Department of the Interior, determined that there are more than 1000 abandoned oilrigs and drilling structures that are decaying and collapsing into the Gulf of Mexico. Oil companies are required by law to dismantle any abandoned oilrigs that have been inactive for one year, but those regulations have not been fully enforced.  Many of these structures have been abandoned for many years. The Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has the responsibility to enforce these regulations under the jurisdiction of the Minerals Management Service (MMS).

On Monday August 02, 2010, Rep. Raul Grijalva sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar urging him to pressure oil companies to dismantle their abandoned and decaying oilrigs by employing residents of the Gulf States affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Not only will over 1000 ugly dangerous structures be removed from the environment, and regulations enforced that should be enforced, but some of the victims of the BP Gulf oil spill will get those high paying jobs.

The text of Rep. Grijalva’s letter follows:

Dear Secretary Salazar,

It has come to my attention that more than 1,000 oil rigs are sitting idle in the Gulf of Mexico. These rigs have not been affected by the recently announced drilling moratorium – they were abandoned by their parent companies, sometimes years ago, and allowed to decay. These structures, commonly referred to as “idle iron,” now provide us with a unique chance to create jobs and open up future economic opportunities throughout the Gulf region.

Federal regulations require that hydrocarbon structures be removed within one year after their leases are terminated. These regulations are not being completely enforced. A 2007 report requested by the Minerals Management Service (MMS) and written by Louisiana State University (Idle Iron in the Gulf of Mexico) identified 1,227 idle structures in the Gulf. As the report correctly notes, “Structures that exist on a lease that have not produced in the last year do not serve a useful economic function[.]”

Gulf residents should be put to work removing idle iron as soon as possible. This would revitalize the regional economy in several ways. By removing outdated structures, Gulf workers would help the structures’ owners comply with existing regulations and ensure that cleared areas are open to potential future opportunities. Idle iron parent companies should be encouraged to hire local labor without delay to dismantle and remove as many structures as can be located.

In your capacity as Secretary of the Interior, you have jurisdiction over the enforcement of the relevant regulations. MMS in its Fiscal Year 2011 Budget Request asked for six new additional full time employees for its regulatory activities, specifically citing the needs created by “aging infrastructure, hurricane damage, and idle iron.” These efforts should be given the resources they need. As you increase your ability to enforce these regulations, I call on you to encourage owners of idle structures to hire Gulf workers to remove them as soon as possible.


Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva