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Consistency Conflicts and Federalism Choice: Marine Spatial Planning Beyond the States' Territorial Seas

July 2011

Citation: ELR 10602

Author: Michael Burger

Offshore areas are under pressure to industrialize for renewable energy. To plan for offshore wind development, Rhode Island engaged in a marine spatial planning process that resulted in the Ocean Special Area Management Plan (O-SAMP), a regulatory invention of the Coastal Zone Management Act. Notably, the Rhode Island O-SAMP maps and plans for uses in federal waters beyond the three-mile line dividing state and fedeal jurisdiction, as well as within the state's territorial sea, posing a challenge to the boundaries of offshore federalism. Conceiving of the question of how to balance federal, state, and local interests in siting offshore renewable energy facilities as one of "federalism choice," there are sound theoretical and pragmatic rationales that weigh in favor of encouraging other states to adopt the O-SAMP model.

Michael Burger is an Associate Professor, Roger Williams University School of Law.