Nov. 4, Election Day, is but a few days away. Fourteen Louisiana constitutional amendments are the on the ballot for you, the voter, to determine if they should move forward with a “yes” or “no” vote.

One particular amendment is crucial to the oil and gas industry. Amendment 8 determines the future of the Artificial Reef Development Fund. A “yes” vote would establish the Artificial Reef Development Fund in the constitution and prohibit using its money for purposes other than those described in the amendment. A “no” vote would leave the fund as it currently exists, as a statutory entity, which allows it to be “swept” when the government needs money to balance the state’s budget. Clearly, a “yes” vote is the opinion of the oil and gas industry as well as the sportsmen that enjoy fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.

As the federal law currently stands, when a rig platform has been out of production for a year, it must be removed. This platform removal process is extremely expensive for the industry, especially at a time when the price of oil is drastically dropping in the United States. In 1986, the state of Louisiana created a “Rigs To Reef” program. This program’s intention is to allow oil and gas operators to sink their rigs in the Gulf, with obvious stipulations and guidelines, to allow for marine life to attach itself to the rigs. This creates a sporting fish haven for our Gulf marine life.

The companies that take part in this program donate half of the money that would have been spent to remove the rigs to the Rigs To Reef fund. This money is spent to maintain the integrity of the artificial reefs, for administration and operational costs and to develop further artificial reefs for the Gulf of Mexico. Over the last few years, these funds have been removed from the program to fill gaps elsewhere in the state budget.

The program is beneficial to the oil and gas industry for obvious financial reasons. However, the benefits do not stop here. The coast of Louisiana is often considered the premier fishing zone for the entire world. Fishermen from all over the globe take advantage of the incredible habitats of fish that have made their homes around these artificial reefs created by the sunken platforms.

It goes without saying, as money is removed from the program, which is legal under current law, the program’s future survival is in question. Amendment 8 will create a constitutional protection for this Artificial Reef Development Fund, ensuring that the Louisiana coast and the Gulf Coast region can carry on the legacy of being a “Sportsman’s Paradise.”

Don Briggs

president, Louisiana Oil and Gas Association

Baton Rouge