Clashing Views At The Rigs To Reefs Conference

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Posted by on April 08, 2007 at 21:57:45:

On 30 March. the Orange County Coastkeeper in conjunction with the California Artificial Reef Enhancement Program (CARE), an oil industry sponsored non-profit group, hosted the Rigs to Reefs Conference in Huntington Beach. The purpose of the conference was to provide a forum for debate on whether twenty-seven soon to be decommissioned oil rigs off the coast of Southern California should be removed, as required by state and federal law, or should be left in the water to provide artificial habitat for fish and other marine creatures. The oil industry contends that the removal of the oil rigs would be disruptive to the marine ecosystem that has grown around the platforms and that the reefs provide excellent habitat for threatened and rare marine species. Some scientists, including Milton Love of UC Santa Barbara, who has received funding from oil industry-sponsored non-profit groups, and Christopher Lowe of CSU Long Beach, advocate leaving the structures in place because of the biodiversity the rigs support.

Environmental advocates have strongly rebuked these claims by arguing that just because animals are living on an artificial structure does not make it habitat anymore than power lines or garbage dumps constitute habitat. They also contend that marine species are drawn away from natural reefs to the artificial ones. They further cite the issue of residual contaminants from years of drilling. Environmental advocates and fishing groups both see the rigs to reefs effort as an attempt by the oil industry to skirt their contractual obligations of removal and cleanup of obsolete oil rigs by cynically using the language of the environmental movement to justify avoiding costly removal and cleanup. Furthermore, environmental advocates and fishing groups worry that the rigs to reefs effort could set a dangerous legal precedent for other companies to leave or dump their waste into the ocean to “create artificial reefs.”

For a 31 March Orange County Register article covering the conference see www.ocregister.com/ocregister/homepage/abox/article_1637579.php. For CARE’s website see www.calreefs.org. For the agenda of the conference, including the abstracts of the presenters please see www.coastkeeper.org/news/events/2007-03_rigs-to-reefs.asp.

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