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Idle Iron, Vital Workers | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

Idle Iron, Vital Workers

Want to hold Big Oil accountable, protect the environment and employ gulf coast residents who have been hit hardest by the Deepwater spill?

Arizona Congressman Raúl Grijalva has found a way to do just that by forcing oil companies to dismantle thousands of oil rigs and drilling structures they have simply abandoned in the Gulf of Mexico.

A recent study commissioned by Minerals Management Service (MMS) indicates that there are at least 1,227 of these suckers—called "idle iron"—in the gulf. The Associated Press reports that the number is actually much higher: "More than 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells" which represent "an environmental minefield that has been ignored for decades. No one is checking to see if they are leaking.… BP alone has abandoned about 600 wells in the Gulf."

The kicker is that by law the oil companies are required to reuse or permanently seal these wells within a year of abandoning them, but that's not being enforced by MMS (shocking), leaving the rigs to corrode and possibly leak.

Grijalva—who chairs the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands and also co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucuswrote Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and told him to enforce these regulations. He also pointed out that this is an opportunity to employ gulf coast residents who have been devastated by the Deepwater disaster and also know how to do this work:

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 By removing outdated structures, Gulf workers would help the structures' owners comply with existing regulations and ensure that cleared areas are open to potential future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.

Ask your representatives to support Grijavla's stand on employing gulf residents to clean up abandoned oil rigs and protect the gulf from further damage. Send an e-mail to Secretary Salazar urging him to do the same.

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