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Modernizing Management of Offshore Oil and Gas in Federal Waters

May 2019

Citation: ELR 10452

Author: Michael LeVine and Andrew Hartsig

Offshore drilling has been thrust back into the spotlight by the Trump Administration’s focus on “energy dominance.” While it is unlikely that leasing will take place in all areas included in the Administration’s proposed plan, its enormous scope has raised serious questions about the government’s capacity to properly plan for potential activities and evaluate impacts, and it has again prompted calls to amend the laws governing Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) oil and gas. This Article recognizes the need for comprehensive ocean legislation, but recognizing that systemic change will take time, focuses on reforms that are generally consistent with the existing statutory framework. It provides background on the statutory scheme governing OCS activities, summarizes some of the reasons Congress should update and amend the law, touches on attempts at legislative reform, and includes specific recommended changes in four main categories: (1) overall policy and overarching legal structure; (2) planning and leasing; (3) operations and response; and (4) financial responsibility and funding.

Michael LeVine is the Senior Arctic Fellow for Ocean Conservancy. Andrew Hartsig is the Arctic Program Director for Ocean Conservancy. They both live and work in Alaska, and collectively have published, spoken, and testified extensively on the regulation and management of offshore oil and gas resources.

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