IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
September 14, 2011
Mr. Vitter introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
To authorize the use of certain offshore oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico for artificial reefs, and for other purposes.
This Act may be cited as
Rigs to Reefs Habitat Protection
In this Act:
The term decommissioning includes the flushing, plugging, and cementing of a platform.
The term Fund means the Reef Maintenance Fund established by section 3(h)(1).
term Notice means the notice to lessees numbered 2010–G05,
Notice to Lessees and Operators of Federal Oil and Gas Leases
and Pipeline Right-of-Way Holders in the Outer Continental Shelf, Gulf of
Mexico OCS Region, and issued September 15, 2010.
The term platform means an offshore oil and gas platform in the Gulf of Mexico that, as determined by the Secretary—
is no longer useful for operations, as defined in the Notice; and
has become critical for marine fisheries habitat.
The term Program means the artificial reef program authorized under the National Fishing Enhancement Act of 1984 (33 U.S.C. 2101 et seq.).
The term Secretary means the Secretary of the Interior.
Use of certain Offshore oil and gas platforms for artificial reefs
As soon as practicable after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall conduct an assessment of each of the platforms—
to determine whether there are coral populations or other protected species in the vicinity of the platform; and
to identify any species in the vicinity of the platform that have recreational or commercial value.
Prohibition of removal
Notwithstanding the Notice, no platforms shall be removed in accordance with the Notice until the date on which the Secretary has completed assessments of each of the platforms under subsection (a).
Suspension of decommissioning
If, during an assessment conducted under subsection (a), the Secretary determines that there is a substantial reef ecosystem in the vicinity of the platform, the decommissioning of the platform under the Notice shall be placed on hold until such time as the Secretary determines that decommissioning the platform would not harm the reef ecosystem.
Exemption from certain requirements
The requirement in the Notice that a lessee remove a platform as soon as possible, but not later than 5 years after the effective date of the Notice or within 5 years of the platform, meeting the definition of no longer useful for operations, whichever is later, shall not apply to a lessee that—
commits to entering the platform in the Program; and
demonstrates the commitment described in paragraph (1) by initiating discussions with applicable States regarding potential sites for the artificial reef.
Reefing in place
A lessee may, as appropriate, provide for reefing in place under the Program.
A State that has a State rig-to-reef program may enter into an agreement with any appropriate entities to assume liability in Federal water for a structure covered by the State program.
Notwithstanding an agreement entered into under paragraph (1), the operator of the covered structure shall remain responsible for maintaining the covered structure.
Removal of top decks
Under the Program, top decks of a rig may be removed, down to water surface level, if appropriate identifying markers are used to protect navigation.
Maintenance and financial requirements
As a condition of inclusion in the Program, the owner of a rig enrolled in the Program shall be required to—
maintain an anode system for the rig; and
pay into the Fund an amount equal to 50 percent of the estimated costs associated with the removal of the platform that the owner would have been responsible for if the owner had not participated in the Program, as determined by the Secretary.
Reef maintenance fund
There is established in the Treasury of the United States a fund to be known as the Reef Maintenance Fund, to be administered by the Secretary, to be available without fiscal year limitation and not subject to appropriation, for the maintenance of artificial reefs established under the Program.
Transfers to Fund
The Fund shall consist of such amounts deposited in the Fund under subsection (g)(2).
Amounts in the Fund may not be made available for any purpose other than a purpose described in paragraph (1).
Not later than 60 days after the end of each fiscal year beginning with fiscal year 2012, the Secretary shall submit to the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives, the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate, the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate, and the Committee on Natural Resources of the House of Representatives a report on the operation of the Fund during the fiscal year.
Each report shall include, for the fiscal year covered by the report, the following:
A statement of the amounts deposited into the Fund.
A description of the expenditures made from the Fund for the fiscal year, including the purpose of the expenditures.
Recommendations for additional authorities to fulfill the purpose of the Fund.
A statement of the balance remaining in the Fund at the end of the fiscal year.