Idle Iron

Photo by arbyreed, <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/19779889@N00/153277616/">via Flickr</a>.


There are more than 1,000 idle oil and gas structures in the Gulf of Mexico, platforms and other iron detritus abandoned years ago and left to collapse into the waters. Now Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) is calling on the Department of Interior to force oil companies to dismantle and responsibly dispose of their old rigs.

Grijalva, chair of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, pointed to a 2007 report from Louisiana State University for the Minerals Management Service (now the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement) that found there are 1,227 idle oil and gas structures in the Gulf that aren’t serving any purpose right now. “Structures that exist on a lease that have not produced in the last year do not serve a useful economic function,” the report concluded. Dismantling the rigs would create jobs for Gulf residents, Grijalva argues. It would also help clean up the region and make the Gulf safer.

“Gulf residents should be put to work removing idle iron as soon as possible,” wrote Grijalva. “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 By removing outdated structures, Gulf workers would help the structures owners comply with existing regulations and ensure that cleared areas are open to potential future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.”

In addition to all those idle rigs, there are more than 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells in the Gulf, many of which may be inadequately sealed. Dealing with all this old and abandoned oil infrastructure is yet another task that should be prioritized in the wake of the Gulf disaster. Interior asked for additional funding in the 2011 budget to fund new positions to help deal with “aging infrastructure, hurricane damage, and idle iron,” which would be a good start.

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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.