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Congressmen call for halt to demolition of oil rigs

GULF OF MEXICO — Congressmen from Mississippi and Alabama want the Department of Interior to stop demolishing inactive offshore oil rigs until more study details the dangers to Gulf of Mexico fish species.

Reps. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., and Jo Bonner, R-Ala., in a letter this past week to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, said the program is killing tens of thousands of pounds of fish, mainly red snapper, and jeopardizing habitats, which have been created by rigs found throughout the Gulf.

Palazzo and Bonner asked Salazar to stop the program. They want further study of how to handle the issue without harming the ecosystems formed around the rigs.

“Red snapper are not the only victims of these senseless acts, as oil and gas platforms scattered throughout the northern Gulf of Mexico provide critical habitat to many different species,” the letter says. “As currently constructed and implemented, Interior’s policy stands to inflict sweeping, irreversible damage. Extensive evidence indicates these structures form the basis for thriving ecosystems that sustain an immense diversity of life including reef fish, turtles, marine mammals, corals and seabirds.”

The Interior Department announced in late 2010, months after the 2010 BP oil spill, that oil and gas companies would be required to set permanent plugs in 3,500 non-producing Gulf wells and also be required to dismantle some 650 wells no longer in use.

There were concerns raised since then about how the program affects sportsmen, commercial fishermen and charter boat captains.

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