A Comparative Study of Licensing and Concession Systems
New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series
Edited by Tina Hunter
Chapter 6: The offshore petroleum licensing regime in the United States
The United States government claims the exclusive right to control exploration and exploitation of oil and gas resources to most of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and other submerged lands bordering the United States seaward for 200 nautical miles (or more where continental shelf extends further seaward), subject to state title claims to certain territorial waters. The federal OCS includes all submerged lands that lie seaward of state-owned submerged lands ceded to the states by the Submerged Lands Act of 1953 and that are subject to the jurisdiction and control of the United States. Due to a longstanding leasing moratorium, the only areas of active federal offshore leasing are the Gulf of Mexico off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama and limited areas offshore of Alaska. Under the Submerged Lands Act, coastal states hold title to the inlets and offshore lands within three nautical miles of their respective shorelines. However, the States of Florida and Texas hold title to offshore submerged lands off their respective Gulf coasts within three marine leagues of their shorelines, approximately ten standard miles out to the landward OCS boundary. The first documented offshore wells were drilled from piers off the coast of southern California in the 1890s. The first freestanding offshore well was drilled in 14 feet of water off the coast of Louisiana in 1938. Modern offshore wells in the Gulf of Mexico have achieved production through almost 10,000 feet of water.
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