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Outer Continental Shelf Transboundary Hydrocarbon Agreements Authorization Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. GRAYSON. I want to thank the Rules Committee for ruling that this amendment is in order. I want to also thank the committee chair for giving me the opportunity to discuss this with him briefly before this matter came up before the House.

This amendment should not be controversial. It reads as follows:

Nothing in this Act and the amendments made by this Act affects the right and power of each State to prohibit management, leasing, developing, and use of lands beneath navigable waters, and the natural resources within such lands, within its boundaries.

This language may sound familiar to those who are familiar with the current division of authority between, on the one hand, the Federal Government and, on the other hand, the States. It's a reaffirmation of 434 U.S.C. 1311(a), and 43 U.S.C. 1311 has a very notable title. It's called, ``The Rights of the States.'' That is the guarantee and purpose of the amendment before us today: to make sure and to reaffirm the rights of the States.

The concept is simple. If land, or resources within those lands, falls within a State's boundaries, that State should have the right to manage that land and those resources in a manner that it sees fit. This is a principle that we in Florida hold dear, and it's an important principle in every State, and, in fact, an important principle to federalism itself.

This principle has been enshrined in law since 1953, when the House passed H.R. 5134 to amend the Submerged Lands Act. A majority of Democrats supported that bill, as did an overwhelming majority of the Republicans. The final vote within the Republican caucus that year was 191 in favor and only 12 opposed. It's my hope that we'll see similar bipartisan support--in fact, overwhelming support--today for this amendment to simply reaffirm that principle.

As a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I support transboundary agreements in general, and I hope that any dispute between the United States and any adjoining neighboring nation can be settled peacefully.

This bill could be misconstrued without our amendment as potentially disturbing states' rights under the status quo. It calls for the ``expeditious ..... development ..... of domestic mineral resources,'' on page 3, and limiting the ``authority to stop work on any installation ..... attached to the seabed of the United States,'' including those erected ``for the purpose of resource exploration, development, or production activities'' to ``inspection staff'' at the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which is on page 6 of the bill. Without our amendment, a future court that is unfamiliar with this subject might wrongly conclude that this statute has, in fact, curtailed State prerogatives.

I don't believe that it was ever the intention of the Natural Resources Committee to make such a dramatic change to the status quo, to the detriment of the States and to states' rights. Therefore, this amendment today should not be controversial. It's merely a reaffirmation of existing law--a section of the United States law entitled, ``Rights of States''--and it's an effort to ensure that the States can choose to do within their own boundaries, and that that which they choose to do is that which will happen.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. GRAYSON. I appreciate the comments of the committee chair, but I must respectfully disagree with him on the merits.

First, with regard to the Gulf of Mexico, the restrictions on current development stretch 100 miles off the shores of Florida, a matter that is of great import in my State. Furthermore, the fact is that we cannot specifically restrain a future court from deciding contrary to the gentleman's opinion unless we do so in this bill.

Now, we've already had the experience this week that, on Tuesday, a certain number of Members of this body were disappointed by a Supreme Court decision; and on Wednesday, other Members were disappointed by a Supreme Court decision. Both of those decisions had to do with federalism; both those decisions had to do with the construction of legislation. If we want to ascertain and commit to the fact that we're not changing current law, the only way to do that is to say that we are not changing current law. By not doing so, we would be giving, in effect, a hostage to future courts for the end of time.

It's in the nature of the supremacy clause that unless we say we are not taking away states' rights, we might do so inadvertently. And that's exactly what this amendment would prevent.

Now, with regard to the second point, I don't know what foreign law may provide with regard to States, but I do know what American law provides. In fact, not only in this title, not only in this chapter, but in this subchapter there's a definition of ``state,'' and that definition is as following--this is 43 U.S.C. 1301, under the heading Definitions, and that says, G: ``The term 'state' means any state of the union.''

Now, while I respect the gentleman's opinion, it's clear--from a clear and plain reading of the statute that we are amending--that in fact his position has no merit. Therefore, I urge the adoption of this amendment so that we can protect states' right, and in particular the rights of coastal States.


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