Washington, D.C.– Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today hailed the Department of the Interior (DOI) announcement that oil and gas companies must permanently plug any Gulf of Mexico wells that have been idle for at least five years. The announcement comes after Grijalva wrote an August 2 letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar calling attention to idle rigs in the region and prompting Salazar to push responsible companies to dismantle outdated rigs using local labor.
“This is excellent news for the Gulf and the nation, both economically and environmentally,” Grijalva said of the policy. “These structures are not producing resources or creating jobs by just sitting there, and the risk of leaking abandoned rigs is something we’ve overlooked long enough. This announcement should put thousands of Gulf laborers back to work in short order cleaning up the Gulf and opening up new opportunities. I sincerely thank the Secretary for his attention to this, and I’m going to keep a close watch on how this is implemented.”
Grijalva’s letter called on the oil and gas industry to employ Gulf labor to remove unused rigs, commonly referred to as “idle iron.” The letter stated that 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 By removing outdated structures, Gulf workers would help the structures’ owners comply with existing regulations and ensure that cleared areas are open to potential future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.”
According to DOI’s announcement, which officially constitutes guidance on how to implement existing rules, oil and gas companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico now must “set permanent plugs in nearly 3,500 nonproducing wells that are currently completed with a subsurface safety valve in place and dismantle about 650 oil and gas production platforms if they are no longer being used for exploration or production.”
The new standard goes into effect Oct. 15, after which companies will have 120 days to submit a company-wide plan for decommissioning affected facilities and wells.
In praising DOI’s decision, Grijalva called on Congress to fully fund the Department’s request for six more full-time well inspectors in fiscal year 2011, an issue he raised in his letter to Salazar. Congress has not yet finalized that funding bill.