Wednesday, May 18, 2011
The development of offshore oil, gas, and other mineral resources in the United States is impacted by a number of interrelated legal regimes, including international, federal, and state laws. International law provides a framework for establishing national ownership or control of offshore areas, and domestic federal law mirrors and supplements these standards.
Governance of offshore minerals and regulation of development activities are bifurcated between state and federal law. Generally, states have primary authority in the three-geographical-mile area extending from their coasts. The federal government and its comprehensive regulatory regime govern those minerals located under federal waters, which extend from the states’ offshore boundaries out to at least 200 nautical miles from the shore. The basis for most federal regulation is the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), which provides a system for offshore oil and gas exploration, leasing, and ultimate development. Regulations run the gamut from health, safety, resource conservation, and environmental standards to requirements for production based royalties and, in some cases, royalty relief and other development incentives.
In 2008, both the President and the 110th Congress removed previously existing moratoria on offshore leasing on many areas of the outer continental shelf. As of the date of this report, Congress has not reinstated the appropriations-based moratoria that were not renewed by the 110th Congress. Other recent legislative and regulatory activity suggests an increased willingness to allow offshore drilling in the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. In 2006, Congress passed a measure that would allow new offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Areas of the North Aleutian Basin off the coast of Alaska have also been recently made available for leasing by executive order. The five-year plan for offshore leasing for 2007-2012 adopted by the Minerals Management Service (MMS, now the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE)) in December of 2007 proposed further expansion of offshore leasing. In the 112th Congress, legislation has been introduced that could accelerate the leasing and permitting process for offshore oil and gas exploration and production. H.R. 1229 would create new deadlines for review of certain permits for exploration and production; while H.R. 1230 would require BOEMRE to lease certain offshore areas for oil and natural gas exploration and production on an accelerated timeline.
In addition to these legislative and regulatory efforts, there has also been significant litigation related to offshore oil and gas development. Cases handed down over a number of years have clarified the extent of the Secretary of the Interior’s discretion in deciding how leasing and development are to be conducted.
Date of Report: May 2, 2011
Number of Pages: 25
Order Number: RL33404
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Posted by Penny Hill Press, Inc. at Wednesday, May 18, 2011