Legislation to Move Rigs-to-Reefs Program Forward Passes Assembly Committee
Bill establishes a process for oil companies to fund the program and for regulators to review plans, ensure positive environmental benefits result
SACRAMENTO – The Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee today approved legislation by Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, to jump start California’s six-year-old, rigs-to-reefs program.
SB 588 establishes a clear process for how the program will be funded by oil companies and how the state will decide if a decommissioned oil rig can be converted into an artificial reef instead of fully removing it from the ocean.
The committee passed the legislation on a 11-2 vote. SB 588, which has already cleared the Senate, goes next to the Assembly Natural Resources Committee for consideration.
“This is smart public policy,” Hertzberg said. “Turning old oil rigs into artificial reefs is a creative solution to an old problem that has shown enormous benefits in other parts of the world. The legislation establishes the process and safeguards necessary to ensure the rigs-to-reefs program will be environmentally beneficial, and in addition, it generates significant funding that will support many other important environmental programs.”
SB 588 is the result of two years of working with stakeholders to refine the language and create a viable program that provides an honest assessment of the environmental trade-offs of partially removing defunct oil rigs versus fully removing them. The original rigs-to-reefs policy was passed by the Legislature in 2010 and took effect in 2011, but it has proved to be unworkable, and no oil company has submitted an application under it.
Across the globe, thriving artificial reefs have been created from sunken ships and decommissioned oil rigs. Beneath the water surface, oil rigs attract a rich diversity of marine life that benefits the ocean.
Before rigs-to-reefs was enacted, oil companies decommissioning rigs were required to remove the entire rig, which destroyed the habitat for marine life, created other environmental damage and was extremely difficult and costly.
California’s coast is home to more than two dozen oil platforms that have been extracting fossil fuel from beneath the ocean for decades. Most of the platforms were built in the 1960s, and as they near the end of their lives, they pose an increasing risk of springing a leak or breaking down.
Oil companies have expressed interest in decommissioning platforms, but the permitting process for partial removal of rigs under the California Marine Resources Legacy Act (CMRLA) is so cumbersome and vague that no operator has applied for a permit. Federal law requires platforms to continue pumping oil and gas until they have received a permit for decommissioning, and so oil companies have continued operating rather than shut down their rigs.
SB 588 aims to turn the current rigs-to-reefs policy into a workable program, without sacrificing any level of environmental review. An effective program would encourage oil companies to start shutting down their rigs and eliminate the danger posed by their aging structures. In addition, the legislation will provide much-needed funding for other ocean conservation programs.
The bill is sponsored by the Sportfishing Conservancy and the Coalition for Enhanced Marine Resources. It is also supported by the Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute, Ocean Conservancy, San Diego County Wildlife Federation, United Anglers, and State Building and Construction Trades Council of California.
"Senator Hertzberg's SB 588 will guarantee an environmentally friendly decommissioning process while providing incentives to clear the horizon,” said Tom Raftican, president of the Sportfishing Conservancy. “The Sportfishing Conservancy is proud to support this visionary approach to enhanced marine habitat.”
Bob Hertzberg, chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water, represents nearly 1 million San Fernando Valley residents of Senate District 18, which includes part of Burbank and the following communities in Los Angeles: Arleta, Granada Hills, Hansen Dam, Lake View Terrace, Mission Hills, North Hills, North Hollywood, part of Northridge, Pacoima, Panorama City, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, part of Sun Valley, Sylmar, Toluca Lake, Valley Glen, Valley Village, Van Nuys, the City of San Fernando and Universal City. See a district map at http://sd18.senate.ca.gov/district. After serving in the Assembly from 1996-2002, including two years as Speaker, Hertzberg invested in solar, wind and electric-car projects; and worked for structural changes in government through the Think Long Committee of California. Hertzberg is also a member of the California Ocean Protection Council. Learn more at www.senate.ca.gov/hertzberg.
MEDIA CONTACT: Andrew LaMar
Senator Robert M. Hertzberg
Capitol Building, Room 4038
Sacramento, CA 95814