Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas: Energy Security and Other Major Issues [Updated March 14, 2003]   [open pdf - 1MB]

The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) contains significant energy resources. The principal authority for OCS development is the OCS Lands Act of 1953, as amended (43 USC 1331). The OCS is made available for oil and gas exploration and development subject to environmental protection and competing public needs.1 A number of OCS issues have been addressed through the annual appropriation process, including offshore leasing moratoria, lease sale 181 (a controversial Florida lease sale), and the royalty-in-kind program. The leasing moratoria, which began in Congress with the FY1982 Interior Appropriations Act (P.L. 97-100), prohibited new offshore California leases. The moratoria were imposed because many coastal states and environmental groups convinced Congress that leasing tracts in environmentally sensitive areas might lead to activities that could cause economic or irreversible environmental damage. Eventually the moratoria were expanded to include New England, the Georges Bank, the mid-Atlantic, the Pacific Northwest, much of Alaska, and a portion of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. Environmental concerns from offshore oil and gas development generally include oil spills, drilling discharges, seismic surveys, and onshore damage. New technology has led to greater exploration and development into deeper water made possible by advances in high-quality 3-dimensional seismic surveying and processing. New drilling technology and new drilling rigs allow for increased drilling at greater depths and accuracy, resulting in higher production rates and lower-cost production.

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CRS Report for Congress, RL31521
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