Graves Amendment Recognizes Pipelines’ Value as Fish Reefs

A PennzEnergy oil exploration drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, in a file image. (Getty Images)

Amid contentious debate over the markup of Rep. Julia Brownley’s (D-Calif.) H.R. 2643, which would assess an annual fee on oil and gas pipeline owners of $1,000 per mile in shallow water and $10,000 per mile in deep water, the House Committee on Natural Resources approved an amendment to the measure offered by Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) that recognized the value of old pipeline and drilling infrastructure as reef fish habitat—beginning with an impassioned speech from Rep. Jerry Carl (R-Ala.), who introduced it on Graves’s behalf.

“Here in the Gulf, which I’ve grown up fishing the Gulf, these pipelines and these offshore rigs are huge in our recreational fishing,” Carl said.

“This next week, we’ve got a group going out with the University of South Alabama—we will actually send out robotics, we will take pictures and look live at some of these pipelines. We’re trying to illustrate how important these pipelines and the reefs are in counting these [red] snapper,” he said, later saying that red snapper were just one of many reef fish species that benefit from old oil and gas infrastructure.

“We worked so hard to protect these reef fish—but yet now, we’re stuck with a situation where we want to tear all these pipelines up. se pipelines are playing a very vital role in the red snapper making their comeback, and we need to keep them in place,” he said, adding that Democrats on the committee turned down an invitation to join him on the trip to the Gulf.

“It’s not all about the oil. It’s not all about the profits,” Carl said. “Does that play a role overall? Yes, it does, but the role it plays is national security. We’re watching our prices of fuel go up. … I promise you, next November, my Democrat colleagues are going to pay the price at the poll.”

Brownley voiced her support for the amendment, while adding that she would “ignore some of the comments Mr. Carl made with regards to fees, etc. in the bill.”

“I encourage the committee to adopt the amendment, and I hope if the committee does, I hope Mr. Graves and Mr. Carl will vote yes on the overall bill,” she said.

Ranking committee member Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) echoed Carl’s remarks.

“Anybody who knows about fishing understands that structure draws fish, and it creates habitat for fish,” Westerman said.

Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.) also spoke in support of the amendment.

“While we in Florida oppose in a bipartisan fashion offshore drilling on our coast, we do recognize that these structures, along with sunken ships and other structures, can be critical for the very popular sports fishing throughout our states,” he said.

amendment passed in a voice vote, with the only no vote apparently coming from Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.). She didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from Pezou.

During debate over an amendment to H.R. 570, another bill affecting offshore oil and gas activities, Westerman said the bill “doesn’t have anything to do with pipeline safety and saving the oceans” and is ultimately intended to hamper U.S. fossil fuel production.

He challenged Democrats to speak up if they don’t simply want to end drilling for oil and gas entirely.

“I would like to yield time to any member across the aisle that would like to say they’re not in favor of that,” said Westerman, who then briefly paused.

“Seeing none, I’ll continue to talk about why this is a good amendment and this bill is bad.”

Pezou : Graves Amendment Recognizes Pipelines’ Value as Fish Reefs