California v. Norton

311 F.3d 1162 (2002)

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California v. Norton

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
311 F.3d 1162 (2002)

  • Written by Robert Cane, JD

Facts

In 1969, an oil spill occurred off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. The federal government indicated that the spill was the result of a failure of federal oversight of the drilling operation. The significant environmental effects of the spill ultimately led to the enactment of the federal Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA). The CZMA authorized a state to review certain federal activities, including any federal permit for activities affecting a coastal zone, for consistency with its coastal-management program if at the time of the federal activity, the state had adopted a coastal-management program that was approved by the federal government. California (plaintiff) had adopted a coastal-management program pursuant to the California Coastal Zone Conservation Act of 1972 and the CZMA. California’s program had been approved by the federal government. In 1984, the United States Supreme Court held that off-shore oil-and-gas lease sales were not subject to consistency review because subsequent exploration and development plans by the lessees were subject to consistency review. In 1990, Congress enacted a statutory amendment specifically overturning the Supreme Court’s decision. The amendment made clear that lease sales were subject to consistency review by states. In 1999, the lessees of 36 leases in California’s coastal zone applied for suspensions of their leases. A lease suspension was effectively an extension of a lease. The leases had never been reviewed by California for consistency with its coastal-management plan because all but one lease predated the approval of California’s plan, and prior to the 1990 amendment states had not been allowed to review off-shore leases for consistency. California asserted its right to review the lease suspensions, but the United States (defendant) claimed that California had no authority to review the lease suspensions. The United States contended that California could not assert its right to review the lease suspensions because the leases were not activities that affected California’s coastal zone. The United States approved the lease suspensions. The United States argued that California’s consistency review of any exploration or development plans pursuant to the leases was sufficient to satisfy the CZMA, and that review of the lease suspensions would be duplicative of future consistency reviews. California sued in the district court, alleging that denying California an opportunity to review the lease suspensions violated the CZMA. The district court held that the lease suspensions were subject to consistency review. The United States appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Nelson, J.)

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