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United States v. Moss

ELR Citation: 47 ELR 20120
Nos. 16-30561, (5th Cir., 09/27/2017)

The Fifth Circuit affirmed a district court ruling that Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) safety regulations do not apply to contractors, subcontractors or service providers. The case concerned a fatal explosion during "hot work" on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that killed three workers and discharged pollution into the Gulf. The government pursued criminal charges against the contractors performing the work because they failed to obtain proper authorization for the work and failed to ensure the construction area was safe for hot work as required by OCSLA safety regulations. The contractors filed motions to dismiss the OCSLA charges, which the district court granted, holding that OCSLA only applies to "a lessee, the owner or holder of operating rights, [or] a designated...agent," and that the contractors were not within the definition. The appellate court agreed, finding that the virtually non-existent past enforcement of OCSLA regulations against contractors confirms that the regulations were never intended to apply. The ruling was affirmed.