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Precursor to OCS Oil & Gas Leasing Offshore California

By 1947, advances in drilling technology enabled oil companies to drill wells from offshore platforms. As a result, an intense jurisdictional struggle ensued between the federal government and coastal states over the governance of submerged offshore lands. Revenue was at the heart of this struggle since both the federal and state governments receive money when they lease submerged lands to oil companies for oil and gas exploration.

In 1953, Congress passed the Submerged Lands Act and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA). The Submerged Lands Act separated federal and state jurisdiction (and revenue rights) of submerged lands at three miles from shore. The states retained jurisdiction for "tideland" areas up to three miles from shore. The OCSLA authorized the Secretary of the Interior to lease tracts of submerged lands on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) for oil and gas development, collect revenues from leasing activity, and prescribe regulations that prevent the waste of OCS natural resources.

In 1965, the United States Supreme Court ruled on California's claim that the water between Santa Barbara County's mainland and the Channel Islands should be considered "inland" water under the jurisdiction of the State. The Court did not agree and upheld the federal government's jurisdiction over all waters seaward of the State's three-mile jurisdictional limit in the water of the Santa Barbara Channel. Following this ruling, the federal government began preparing to lease submerged tracts of land in the Santa Barbara Channel.


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