Enduring Optimism: Examining the Rig-to-Reef Bargain

Salcido, Rachael E.
November 2005
Ecology Law Quarterly;2005, Vol. 32 Issue 4, p863
Academic Journal
Federal law requires the removal of offshore oil and gas platforms from the seafloor at the end of production. An exception to this rule allows a platform to stay on the seafloor if it is incorporated into a state artificial reef program. These "rig-to-reef" projects have been promoted as innovative public-private partnerships that address the dual problems of costly platform removal and disappearing fishing opportunities. I argue that the current legal framework fails to ensure habitat enhancement and may condone ocean dumping. The problem can be traced to three sources: federal and state competition on the outer continental shelf, lack of a comprehensive long-term federal vision for outer continental shelf development, and interest group pressure in the face of scientific uncertainty. I recommend that we revisit the bargain struck in rig-to-reef conversions. This article identities the flaws in current law and proposes a more robust experimental model to ensure that public benefit is realized in rig-to-reef programs.


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