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Panel: Optimizing Rigs-to-Reefs Program Benefits Marine Ecosystems, Coastal Economies


WASHINGTON, D.C., May 17, 2017 -

Today, the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a hearing on “Reviewing Recent State Successes with the Rigs to Reefs Program.” The panel focused on the environmental benefits of maintaining decommissioned oil and gas platforms as marine habitat and ways to optimize the program's use and benefits. 

"Since the program’s formal inception in 1984, over 500 platforms of artificial reef have been established and maintained, giving rise to a collection of marine species and supporting local commercial and recreational fishing industries," Subcommittee Chairman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) said. 

Dr. Greg Stunz’s, Professor and Endowed Chair for Fisheries and Ocean Health at the Heart Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi, research finds flourishing ecosystems around decommissioned rigs repurposed as artificial reefs.

“[W]e observe higher densities of fish, faster growth or at least the same growth rate, and even similar reproductive output when compared to natural bottom,” Dr. Stunz stated. “[B]y all measures…  Rigs-to-Reefs are functioning equivalently or better, and contribute similarly on a per-capita basis as natural habitat.”

In addition to supporting marine habitat, these artificial reefs have become major recreational attractions, including the HI A389 production platform in the Gulf of Mexico, which is the most popular and photographed scuba diving location in the region. They also benefit commercial fishing industries, including shrimpers, who trawl up to a quarter mile from reef sites and report higher yields in those areas.

The Rigs-to-Reefs program is a win-win situation for all and puts older resource materials to good use. It is good for business, government and especially the environment,” Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Artificial Reef Program Leader Dale Shively stated.

Despite wide-ranging ecological and economic success and growing demand for innovative decommissioning solutions, the program’s permitting process can take years.

The current process involves multiple federal and state agencies, all with their own required internal review processes that must be completed,” Vice President of Drilling, Completions and Facilities at W & T Offshore, Inc. David Bump said.W & T has been waiting for approval for over three years on a single application.”

Click here to view full witness testimony. 


Contact: Committee Press Office 202-226-9019

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