SB 588 (Hertzberg) – SUPPORT
Marine resources and preservation.
SB 233 (Hertzberg) – SUPPORT
This bill updates California’s “Rigs-to-Reefs” law, which was enacted by AB 2503 (Perez) in 2010.
As amended, this bill does three things:
- Streamlines the Review Process by making the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) the lead environmental agency for the project.
- Moves the trigger dates forward – with lower oil prices and a streamlined permit process, we hope that oil companies will take advantage of this program and cease off-shore oil production early.
- Requires Air Quality Impacts to be considered – we believe that all environmental impacts of partial versus full removal should be considered when determining whether the conversion is a “net environmental benefit.”
In February 2010, Assemblyman John Perez (D-Los Angeles) introduced Assembly Bill 2503. His legislation adopted ideas from the previous bills but added a range of new provisions addressing concerns and shortcomings that had been raised regarding SB 1. AB 2503 focused on the importance of preserving the diversity and abundance of marine life in California coastal waters. It also expanded the scope of requirements for platform operators to share savings from partial rather than full rig removal with the state for marine conservation programs. In addition, it expanded language related to specific state agency responsibilities in a case-by-case review and approval process.
AB 2503 passed both houses by significant margins. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed it into law on Sept. 15, 2010 as the California Marine Resources Legacy Act.
AB 2503 Questions and Answers
Q: WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL AMENDMENTS TO AB 2503 in 2015?
A: Potential amendments to AB 2503 include changes regarding indemnification; multi-agency decision making; exclusion of air quality benefits from net benefit determination; costs regarding regulatory program and net benefit criteria; consolidation of public hearings; and opportunities for applicant to provide additional information.
Q: HOW DOES AN ARTIFICAL REEF PROGRAM LIKE THIS WORK?
A: Such programs involve the voluntary donation of obsolete offshore oil platforms to sustain artificial reefs that provide important habitat for marine life. Only the rig’s steel support structure, or “jacket”, which is submerged and pinned to the seabed, would be used to form the reef. The jacket will be left in place after being cut off about 100 feet below the ocean surface. The topsides — the visible portion of the platform that contains the oil and gas processing facilities and crew accommodations are taken ashore for recycling or disposal in appropriate waste sites. A portion of the cost savings realized by the donor of the rig, as compared to the cost of complete removal, is donated to the state.
Q: WHAT ROLE DOES A PLATFORM FULFILL AS AN ARTIFICIAL REEF?
A: Actual experience, as well as extensive scientific research, shows that offshore oil platforms provide considerable habitat for marine organisms even when they are in full operation. Invertebrates like mussels and barnacles attach themselves to the steel structures, forming additional habitat by encrusting pilings and pipes as well as covering the bottom. This habitat in turn supports a vast array of fish — including several overfished species. The immense size and extensive vertical profile of these structures promote the growth and development of large populations of diverse marine organisms.
Q: ARE OBSOLETE PLATFORMS BETTER THAN OTHER MATERIALS FOR MAKING A REEF?
A: Platform structures are ideal (durable, stable, complex) materials because of their engineering design and construction. The rounded steel legs of the jackets provide the maximum surface area for biological growth and attachment of benthic organisms. They were also constructed to withstand the horizontal wave forces of 100-year storms. A variety of reef fish spend at least some part of their life cycle in the shadow or protection of these structures. When a platform is removed, these fish have less hard bottom areas for refuge or for critical phases in their life cycle. The benthic organisms attached to the structure such as barnacles, sponges and cup corals are lost forever when the structure is taken to shore.” Jan Culbertson, Artificial Reef Program Coordinator, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Q: WHY SHOULD CALIFORNIA EXPAND ITS EXISTING ARTIFICIAL REEF PROGRAM?
A: California and its coastal communities will benefit from the increased fish habitat through increased tourism, diving and recreational fishing opportunities. For the petroleum industry, this program provides an alternative to full platform removal that is more economical and less disruptive to the environment. Moreover, this approach frees up resources to create an endowment to fund new research and other projects that will enhance the quality, use, and enjoyment of the state’s marine resources.
Q: IS THERE ANY INCREASED RISK OF OIL SEEPAGE OR HYDROCARBON RELEASES IF OIL RIGS ARE CONVERTED INTO REEFS?
A: No. There is no connection between the decommissioning of the platform and the wells. Before a platform can be decommissioned, all of its wells must be completely plugged and capped per the specific requirements of the United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. The prior owner or operator of those wells retains all liability for damages associated with any seepage or release of hydrocarbons from these decommissioned wells.
Q: HOW CAN WE BE CERTAIN THE OIL RIGS ARE ALREADY IN THE BEST LOCATIONS FOR ARTIFICIAL REEFS?
A: It is difficult to know precisely where the “best” locations might be, or if there is even a significantly better site for an artificial reef. What is certain, however, is that the platform already exists and that its jacket currently supports a thriving habitat for both vertebrate and invertebrate organisms that would be destroyed if the jacket is removed.
Q: DON’T THE ORIGINAL PERMITS FOR THE OIL PLATFORMS REQUIRE THEM TO BE COMPLETELY REMOVED AND TAKEN AWAY?
A: No. Both the lease provisions and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (formerly the Minerals Management Service) regulations governing disposition of offshore facilities are flexible enough to allow the federal government to contemplate and approve methods of jacket disposition other than complete removal, as we have seen in the Gulf of Mexico. Further, the leases and regulations regarding platform disposition would be subject to conformance with federal and state legislation, which specifically established programs for converting existing obsolete oil rights to artificial reefs.