Digest of Federal Resource Laws of Interest to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act

Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953 (43 U.S.C. 1331 - 1356, P.L. 212, Ch. 345, August 7, 1953, 67 Stat. 462) as amended by P.L. 93-627, January 3, 1975, 88 Stat. 2130; P.L. 95-372, September 18, 1978, 92 Stat. 629; and P.L. 98-498, October 19, 1984, 98 Stat. 2296.

The 1953 statute defines the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) as all submerged lands lying seaward of State coastal waters (3 miles offshore) which are under U.S. jurisdiction. The statute authorized the Secretary of Interior to promulgate regulations to lease the OCS in an effort to prevent waste and conserve natural resources and to grant leases to the highest responsible qualified bidder as determined by competitive bidding procedures.

The Deepwater Port Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-627) authorizes the Secretary of Transportation, after consultation with the Secretary of Interior, to waive the removal requirements for a deepwater port if its components can be used in conjunction with a mineral lease sale.

Numerous amendments were incorporated in the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act amendments of 1978 (P.L. 95-372). Title II of these amendments provides for the cancellation of leases or permits if continued activity is likely to cause serious harm to life, including fish and other aquatic life. It also stipulates that economic, social, and environmental values of the renewable and nonrenewable resources are to be considered in management of the OCS.

The timing and location of leasing activities are to be based on several factors, including the relative environmental sensitivity and marine productivity of different areas of the OCS. An environmental studies program is authorized and the Secretary is required to study any region included in a lease sale in order to assess and manage environmental impacts on the OCS.

Title III of these amendments established an Offshore Oil Spill Pollution Compensation Fund to be financed by a tax on oil obtained from the OCS and stipulated the damages for which claims could be made against the fund.

Title IV of the amendments established a Fishermen's Contingency Fund to compensate fishermen for damages of fishing gear by materials, equipment, tools, containers, or other items associated with oil and gas exploration.

Title V amended the 1972 Coastal Zone Management Act to authorize grants to coastal states under a Coastal Energy Impact Program.

Amendments enacted in 1984 provided for changes to certain administrative provisions in the Fishermen's Contingency Fund.

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