Conoco Inc. v. United States: Sovereign Authority Undermined by Contractual Obligations on the Outer Continental Shelf

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 1998



In 1953 Congress passed the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) in order to provide the Federal Government with exclusive jurisdiction over the development of oil and gas resources contained in the outer continental shelf (OCS). Under the OCSLA, the secretary of the interior is authorized to sell leases for the exploration, development, and production of OCS oil and gas resources through a competitive bidding process. The OCSLA divides OCS energy development into four phases and requires the secretary to follow delineated procedures at each stage in the energy development process. Congress also has acknowledged that OCS resource development should be conducted in an environmentally conscious manner that reflects state and local concerns. Therefore, Congress-through the OCSLA, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Coastal Zone Management Act'-has provided that coastal states and other concerned interests can participate at various stages of the OCS resource planning and development processes.

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