Q&A: Jurisdiction over ocean waters

Jurisdiction over ocean waters

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Many deepwater oil platforms are located far beyond the territorial waters of the United States. BP's Deepwater Horizon rig was approximately 50 miles off the southeast coast of Louisiana, and many are even farther out. Why do the builders need U.S. permits/permission to build since they are in international waters?

Three miles out from the coast is designated as state waters, and from there to 200 miles out are federal waters — the outer continental shelf, officials with the U.S. Mineral Management Service said.

Areas extending 200 nautical miles from the coastline and contiguous to the territorial sea of the United States, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and U.S. overseas territories and possessions are part of the Exclusive Economic Zone.

The permits, which are provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, are required to account for the accidental harm exploration activities could cause to marine creatures, the Washington Post reported.

The paper reported that the U.S. Minerals Management Service has approved three lease sales, 130 permits to conduct seismic activities, 219 exploration plans and 137 production plans since January 2009 without obtaining permits under either the Marine Mammal Protection Act or the Endangered Species Act.

Why Elmer's Island as dateline?

A recent newspaper story was datelined Elmer's Island, La. I have since researched Elmer's Island, and have determined its only relation to the oil leak saga is possibly its nearness to the site of the event. What was the point of the reporter venturing there?

Washington Post writer David Fahrenthold said the story was datelined Elmer's Island because that is where he, after much searching, was able to see the first traces of oil washing ashore in Louisiana. He went to Elmer's Island on the advice of a Louisiana State University scientist and saw firsthand that tar balls had washed up on the shore.

Leak could fill 10 pools a day

I'm having a tough time getting my head around 210,000 gallons (of oil originally believed by BP to be escaping daily). Is it the size of a railroad tank car? How does it compare to the whale tank at SeaWorld in Orlando?

Shamu Stadium at SeaWorld holds about 7 million gallons of water. Railroad tank cars hold 28,000-30,000 gallons of oil in capacity, according to the Association of American Railroads.

Put another way, an average in-ground home swimming pool might hold 20,000 to 30,000 gallons of water. So the leak of that magnitude would fill 10 or more pools every day until it's stopped.

Q&A: Jurisdiction over ocean waters 06/07/10 [Last modified: Monday, June 7, 2010 3:57pm]

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