Coastal & Ocean Law |
Coastal areas and the offshore marine environment are subject to both intensive development and important conservation programs. A wide variety of complex laws to regulate and manage human activities and conserve natural resources apply to these areas. Fifty-five percent of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of a coast. Offshore demands on fisheries continue to grow, and efforts to develop more renewable and fossil fuel energy have multiplied. These competing needs, combined with climate change and its effect on the oceans and coasts, have brought U.S. laws and regulations into even greater focus.
For decades, Perkins Coie has represented clients affected by virtually every law that applies to coastal and marine areas and resources. We are recognized leaders in this field and are actively involved in the development of federal and state laws and policies that govern the coasts and oceans. Clients come to us for help with the development of fishery management plans, the issuance of leases to develop offshore oil, gas and renewable energy, incidental take authorizations for protected species, conservation and recovery plans for marine wildlife, the designation of marine protected areas, coastal zone development and construction, Indian treaty rights and Alaska Native subsistence, and litigation and enforcement actions involving parties who conduct activities within the marine environment. As the federal government develops sweeping new programs to manage coastal and marine ecosystems, these and other areas of representation are particularly important.
Areas in which our coastal and ocean practice lawyers have particular experience include:
Federal Ocean Policy
Today, the federal government is engaged in a far-reaching, comprehensive policy initiative to reshape the management of the marine environment and the way that parties use it. President Obama’s directive, "the new ocean policy" has already created the National Ocean Council, a new federal coordination body that is developing reform programs. Using our many years of experience in this area, Perkins Coie lawyers have been actively involved in shaping these federal policies and the legal authorities that will flow from them.
Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Leasing for Oil, Gas, Wind Projects
OCS development of oil, gas and renewable energy requires authorization under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA). The decision-making process is complex, often involving numerous federal, state, local and tribal laws, and can take years to complete. Perkins Coie has served as lead counsel on some of the most significant OCS energy projects in the country, handling all aspects of the federal approval process involving NEPA and many other applicable laws that relate to endangered species, marine mammals, and coastal zone consistency, among others.
Offshore Hydrokinetic Projects
Although the Department of Interior decides authorizations of oil, gas and offshore wind projects, OCSLA tasks the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) under the Federal Power Act with the management of offshore tidal, current, wave and similar forms of renewable energy. Perkins Coie has been involved in a number of projects on the cutting edge of this emerging industry. In addition to advising clients on the specific elements of these projects, we have extensive background dealing with FERC licensing, which serves as the model for offshore authorizations.
Coastal Zone Development
Developments for virtually any purpose in coastal areas, both onshore and in marine waters, are subject to the state requirements of coastal management plans (CMPs) and the federal Coastal Zone Management Act. We are familiar with the CMPs for most states, as well as the federal consistency requirements, including appellate procedure.
Fishing has long been a mainstay of the U.S. economy and its food production. The regulation of the fishing industry is subject to the unique procedures of the Fishery Conservation and Management Act, as well as laws like NEPA, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), as well as others. Also, non-fishing activities must not conflict with fish stock conservation and fish habitat protection requirements. Laws in this field require special expertise, and for decades Perkins Coie has represented fisheries and parties who deal with them on resource management and conservation issues in a wide variety of forums, ranging from fishery management councils to the federal courts to Congress.
Marine Resource Conservation
In addition to fish and fish habitat, many marine species are subject to the protective provisions of other federal laws, including the ESA and MMPA. Coastal wetlands, coral reefs, marine migratory birds, and habitats and species found within marine protected areas are also subject to their own legal authorities. Our clients look to Perkins Coie to provide a wide variety of legal services dealing with these resources and habitat areas, including avoiding conflicts between clients' activities and these resources, obtaining approval for necessary impacts and handling enforcement matters, conservation programs and species recovery efforts.