Talk about strange bedfellows, offshore oil rigs now have a vigorous champion in a conservation group, the Coastal Conservation Association. At issue is not the pollution caused by such catastrophes as the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Instead the sticking point is the steel legs of the now-idle drilling platforms, encrusted with coral and teeming with life. The Department of the Interior issued a directive stipulating the removal of nonworking rigs within five years. Representative Steven Palazzo (R-Mississippi) is encouraging his fellow congressmen to sign a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, calling for a moratorium on what has become known as the “Idle Iron” policy. The Gulf of Mexico is an important breeding ground for pelagic species in the western Atlantic. Legislation allowing idle rigs—known as the Rigs to Reefs Habitat Protection Act—to remain as fish habitat is pending in congress now.
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