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     FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 26, 2012                                           CONTACT: Ted Venker, 1-800-201-FISH

Twenty Congressmen join call for moratorium on rig removals
 Efforts to save marine habitat gain support from across the country


WASHINGTON, DC – A letter from the Congressional Sportsmens Caucus (CSC) to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar calling for a moratorium on rig removals due to the federal governments Idle Iron policy will carry the signatures of 20 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, an impressive bi-partisan display of concern for marine habitat in the Gulf of Mexico.

“As leaders and members of the Congressional Sportsmens Caucus, we are concerned that the Idle Iron guidance issued by the Department of Interior in October of 2010 is having an adverse impact on critical marine habitat in the Gulf of Mexico,” states the letter, signed by Representatives from 10 states. “We request that your Department enact a temporary moratorium on the removal of structures related to that Directive until a stakeholder process can be developed to determine both the best methods to properly dismantle rigs that have cause to be removed, and to protect those structures that are shown to harbor thriving marine ecosystems.”

In response to the 2010 Gulf oil spill, the U.S. Department of Interior issued the Idle Iron directive which resulted in a policy that will ultimately force removal of any rigs, platforms or associated structures from non-producing wells. Coastal Conservation Association and other groups have argued that the structures are the basis for thriving ecosystems that sustain an immense diversity of life, and have called for a thorough evaluation to be developed before any removal decisions are made. CCA worked with CSC and with Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) on this most recent call for a moratorium on the Idle Iron policy to develop that process. Rep. Palazzo presented the concerns of the recreational angling community at a briefing hosted by the Congressional Sportsmens Foundation in June where he also invited fellow members of the Caucus to sign onto the letter to Secretary Salazar.

“Sportsmen know the value of habitat. We know how hard it is to create it and we know how easy it is to lose it,” said Rep. Palazzo. “We cannot sit idly by while marine habitat in the Gulf is destroyed by a policy that clearly needs more consideration. The Idle Iron issue may seem complex, but at the end of the day we would be wise to protect these habitats.”

The letter from the CSC is the latest in a string of efforts that CCA has worked on and supported to derail the Policy, including the Rigs to Reefs Habitat Protection Act filed in 2011 by U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and the companion bill introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Palazzo; language implementing strict review and reporting requirements on removals in the Sportsmens Act of 2012; the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Councils decision to begin the process of classifying rigs and other vital artificial reefs as Essential Fish Habitat (EFH), and letters from both Texas Governor Rick Perry and U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) to Secretary Salazar urging him to reconsider the policy. In June, a coalition of marine conservation, tackle and boating industry groups called for a halt to the Idle Iron policy in a letter to Secretary Salazar, citing the irreparable damage it stands to inflict on an extensive range of marine fisheries and ecosystems. Additionally, the Sportfishing and Boating Partnership Council, an 18-member committee established to provide input to the Department of Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on recreational boating and fishing issues and aquatic resource conservation issues, sent a letter to Secretary Salazar calling for a two-year moratorium on rig removals.

“We are grateful to all the elected officials who share our concern for this marine habitat and are willing to fight against arbitrarily dismantling the largest artificial reef system in the world,” said Pat Murray, president of CCA. “The entire issue of platform removals needs a much more thorough review given the incredible habitat at stake. Political leaders and experts from across the spectrum have voiced serious concerns about the impacts of the Idle Iron directive and are demanding a more reasoned process to evaluate these structures.”

For a copy of the CSC letter click HERE, and to learn more about the issue of these artificial reefs and their impact on the marine environment visit the CCA Rigs to Reefs page.