Minerals Management Service this year is celebrating the 50th anniversary
of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, passed in August 1953,
which established federal jurisdiction over submerged lands on the
OCS seaward of state boundaries.
gave the secretary of the interior responsibility for administering
mineral exploration and development of the OCS.
seems like a logical division of responsibility was extremely controversial
50 years ago, said Chris Oynes, MMS’ regional director. Several
major discoveries already had been made in the Gulf of Mexico by
1953, and those leases were granted by the states.
law’s enactment, those leases reverted to the federal government
and a long legal battle ensued between the states and the Feds.
the most controversial elements of the new law was the state-federal
boundary," Oynes said. "After intense debate the boundary was set
at three miles from the mean high tide line, but due to peculiarities
of how some states came into the union this division was not applied
across the board."
for example, was a sovereign country prior to joining the United
States, so that state boundary extended out three leagues -- or
about 10 miles.
to say, Louisiana was not happy about the discrepancy," Oynes said,
"and (it) fought the boundary in court."
the legal challenges resulted in some minor changes to the OCS lands
act, federal jurisdiction was upheld. According to MMS records 394
leases were turned over to the federal government in 1953, and 130
of those leases are still active today.
passage of the OCS lands act was not the end of the controversy
surrounding offshore lands. A major overhaul of the law was undertaken
in 1978 and came about from a confluence of several critical issues.
the National Environmental Policy Act had been passed in 1969, and
by 1978 a lot of environmental questions had started to surface
concerning the OCS program," Oynes said. "There had been several
major offshore accidents, including the 1969 Santa Barbara blowout,
which focused attention on offshore practices."
again, coastal states raised concerns about how the OCS program
was run. The 1978 amendments resulted in states’ sharing revenues
from the three-mile boundary out to the six-mile line. Today 27.5
percent of all bonuses, rents and royalties from that three-mile
swath are given to the adjacent coastal state.
the Arab oil embargo and the resulting supply shortages focused
a great deal of attention on domestic sources.
late 1970s there were concerns that major oil companies were manipulating
the situation," Oynes said, "and consequently the 1978 amendments
included antitrust provisions. Those are procedural hoops we still
deal with today."
for 50 years the OCS lands act has played a key role in America’s
of production that comes from the OCS compared to total domestic
oil production has increased dramatically, from 17 percent in 1995
to 29 percent today," Oynes said. "That figure will certainly climb
as total domestic production declines and OCS production continues
not only proud of the role we have played in fostering oil and gas
production, but also our charge with regard to technical reviews
and environmental protection of the OCS," he added.
one of the premier ocean environmental studies agencies within the
government. The OCS lands act is the foundation of the government’s
oversight and commitment to the offshore regions of the United States."