U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, introduced S. 1079, the Artificial Reef Promotion Act, which would increase the utilization of decommissioned Gulf platforms as artificial reefs, as part of the Rigs to Reefs program.

"The Rigs to Reef program is not new. We figured out decades ago that these decommissioned, idle platforms develop into unintended marine habitats that attract many kinds of aquatic life in the Gulf of Mexico," said Vitter. "My bill will bring the Rigs to Reefs program into the 21st century that will ultimately increase the stability and health of our Gulf of Mexico fisheries and the industries that depend on them."

The Artificial Reef Promotion Act requires that twenty new reef planning areas be established after a year of enactment, including six off each of the coasts of Texas and Louisiana, three off the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama, and five off of the coast of Florida.

Currently, of the approximately 2,946 production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, 813 of them have been identified by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement as fitting the criteria for use as artificial reefs. Over the last forty years, 13 percent of decommissioned platforms have been placed in the Rigs to Reefs program, leaving the rest to be decommissioned in a lengthy and expensive process that disturbs the existing ecosystems. Vitter's bill will help streamline the process, encouraging owners of the rigs to enter the program.

Click here to read the Artificial Reef Promotion Act.