Geological and geophysical explorations
Approved exploration plans
(1) Any agency of the United States and any person authorized by the Secretary may conduct geological and geophysical explorations in the outer Continental Shelf, which do not interfere with or endanger actual operations under any lease maintained or granted pursuant to this subchapter, and which are not unduly harmful to aquatic life in such area.
(2) The provisions of paragraph (1) of this subsection shall not apply to any person conducting explorations pursuant to an approved exploration plan on any area under lease to such person pursuant to the provisions of this subchapter.
Oil and gas exploration
Except as provided in subsection (f) of this section, beginning ninety days after September 18, 1978, no exploration pursuant to any oil and gas lease issued or maintained under this subchapter may be undertaken by the holder of such lease, except in accordance with the provisions of this section.
Plan approval; State concurrence; plan provisions
(1) Except as otherwise provided in this subchapter, prior to commencing exploration pursuant to any oil and gas lease issued or maintained under this subchapter, the holder thereof shall submit an exploration plan to the Secretary for approval. Such plan may apply to more than one lease held by a lessee in any one region of the outer Continental Shelf, or by a group of lessees acting under a unitization, pooling, or drilling agreement, and shall be approved by the Secretary if he finds that such plan is consistent with the provisions of this subchapter, regulations prescribed under this subchapter, including regulations prescribed by the Secretary pursuant to paragraph (8) of section 1334(a) of this title, and the provisions of such lease. The Secretary shall require such modifications of such plan as are necessary to achieve such consistency. The Secretary shall approve such plan, as submitted or modified, within thirty days of its submission, except that the Secretary shall disapprove such plan if he determines that (A) any proposed activity under such plan would result in any condition described in section 1334(a)(2)(A)(i) of this title, and (B) such proposed activity cannot be modified to avoid such condition. If the Secretary disapproves a plan under the preceding sentence, he may, subject to section 1334(a)(2)(B) of this title, cancel such lease and the lessee shall be entitled to compensation in accordance with the regulations prescribed under section 1334(a)(2)(C)(i) or (ii) of this title.
(2) The Secretary shall not grant any license or permit for any activity described in detail in an exploration plan and affecting any land use or water use in the coastal zone of a State with a coastal zone management program approved pursuant to section 1455 of title 16, unless the State concurs or is conclusively presumed to concur with the consistency certification accompanying such plan pursuant to section 1456(c)(3)(B)(i) or (ii) of title 16, or the Secretary of Commerce makes the finding authorized by section 1456(c)(3)(B)(iii) of title 16.
An exploration plan submitted under this subsection shall include, in the degree of detail which the Secretary may by regulation require—
(A) a schedule of anticipated exploration activities to be understaken; 1
1 So in original. Probably should be “undertaken;”.
(B) a description of equipment to be used for such activities;
(C) the general location of each well to be drilled; and
(D) such other information deemed pertinent by the Secretary.
(4) The Secretary may, by regulation, require that such plan be accompanied by a general statement of development and production intentions which shall be for planning purposes only and which shall not be binding on any party.
The Secretary may, by regulation, require any lessee operating under an approved exploration plan to obtain a permit prior to drilling any well in accordance with such plan.
Plan revisions; conduct of exploration activities
(1) If a significant revision of an exploration plan approved under this subsection is submitted to the Secretary, the process to be used for the approval of such revision shall be the same as set forth in subsection (c) of this section.
(2) All exploration activities pursuant to any lease shall be conducted in accordance with an approved exploration plan or an approved revision of such plan.
Drilling permits issued and exploration plans approved within 90-day period after September 18, 1978
(1) Exploration activities pursuant to any lease for which a drilling permit has been issued or for which an exploration plan has been approved, prior to ninety days after September 18, 1978, shall be considered in compliance with this section, except that the Secretary may, in accordance with section 1334(a)(1)(B) of this title, order a suspension or temporary prohibition of any exploration activities and require a revised exploration plan.
(2) The Secretary may require the holder of a lease described in paragraph (1) of this subsection to supply a general statement in accordance with subsection (c)(4) of this section, or to submit other information.
(3) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to amend the terms of any permit or plan to which this subsection applies.
Determinations requisite to issuance of permits
Any permit for geological explorations authorized by this section shall be issued only if the Secretary determines, in accordance with regulations issued by the Secretary, that—
(1) the applicant for such permit is qualified;
(2) the exploration will not interfere with or endanger operations under any lease issued or maintained pursuant to this subchapter; and
(3) such exploration will not be unduly harmful to aquatic life in the area, result in pollution, create hazardous or unsafe conditions, unreasonably interfere with other uses of the area, or disturb any site, structure, or object of historical or archeological significance.
Lands beneath navigable waters adjacent to Phillip Burton Wilderness
The Secretary shall not issue a lease or permit for, or otherwise allow, exploration, development, or production activities within fifteen miles of the boundaries of the Phillip Burton Wilderness as depicted on a map entitled “Wilderness Plan, Point Reyes National Seashore”, numbered 612–90,000–B and dated September 1976, unless the State of California issues a lease or permit for, or otherwise allows, exploration, development, or production activities on lands beneath navigable waters (as such term is defined in section 1301 of this title) of such State which are adjacent to such Wilderness.
(Aug. 7, 1953, ch. 345, § 11, 67 Stat. 469; Pub. L. 95–372, title II, § 206, Sept. 18, 1978, 92 Stat. 647; Pub. L. 99–68, § 1(c), July 19, 1985, 99 Stat. 166.)