California Coastal Commission v. Norton: A Coastal State Victory in the Seaweed Rebellion

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There has been a great deal of federal-state conflict regarding outer continental shelf (OCS) energy development, which is known as the Seaweed Rebellion. California, which has experienced eleven OCS lease sales off its coast since 1961, has been a leader of the Seaweed Rebellion. California has been involved in litigation regarding the tidelands controversy, the disposition of section 8(g) revenues under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), and the development of the Department of Interior's (Interior's) five-year OCS leasing programs pursuant to section 18 of the OCSLA. This article examines California's utilization of the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) to influence OCS energy development. A brief history of the conflicts between California and the federal government regarding OCS energy development is set forth. The Ninth Circuit's decision in the latest battle, California Coastal Commission v. Norton, is analyzed. The article concludes that the Ninth Circuit was correct in holding that the suspension of thirty-six OCS leases off California are subject to state consistency review pursuant to section 307(c)(1) of the CZMA. Furthermore, the Ninth Circuit properly determined that Interior should not have categorically excluded the OCS lease suspensions from National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis because the suspensions constituted extraordinary circumstances. Finally, the current Bush administration and congressional efforts regarding OCS energy development and the California leases are examined.



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