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
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
made available for leasing by executive order. Most recently, the
five-year plan for offshore leasing for 2012-2017 adopted by the Bureau of
Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) scheduled 16 more lease sales in the Gulf
of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska, but did not schedule new lease
sales in other areas.
In addition to 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: March 21, 2013
Number of Pages: 26 Order Number: RL33404 Price: $29.95
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