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United States v. Alexander

ELR Citation: 9 ELR 20750
Nos. No. 78-5676, 602 F.2d 1228/(5th Cir., 09/24/1979)

Reversing a criminal conviction, the court rules that the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) does not give the Secretary of the Interior authority to promulgate conservation regulations governing offshore activities unrelated to mineral leases. Defendant, who damaged a coral reef while carrying out vessel salvage operations, was convicted of violating Interior Department regulations imposing criminal liability upon any person who engages in an operation, without first obtaining a permit, which directly damages a viable coral community. The government argued that the portion of §5(a) of the OCSLA directing the Secretary to prescribe regulations for the conservation of the natural resources of the outer continental shelf (OCS) gave him authority to regulate activities on the OCS other than those connected with leases. The court disagrees and finds that a careful reading of §5(a) shows that it gives the Secretary authority to issue conservation rules and regulations only in connection with the administration of OCS mineral leases. Therefore, the regulation under which defendant was convicted is overly broad. In addition, the permit scheme goes beyond the scope of the OCSLA in another respect because it restricts navigational and fishing rights in OCS waters.

Counsel for Appellant
Harry Zuckerman
Ehrich and Zuckerman
709 Biscayne Bldg., 19 W. Flagler St., Miami FL 33130
(305) 373-3636

Counsel for Appellee
Linda Carroll, Ass't U.S. Attorney
300 Ainsley Bldg., 14 NE 1st Ave., Miami FL 33132
(305) 350-4471

Peter Steenland Jr.
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2748

Before BROWN, Chief Judge, and CLARK and VANCE, Circuit Judges.