In 1953, Congress enacted the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), 43 U.S.C. § 1331, et seq., to train federal management over the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and to outline a physique of legislation relevant to OCS amenities. State legislation utilized as surrogate federal legislation on the OCS solely the place it was not inconsistent. This idea has been affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court docket as not too long ago as 2019 in Parker Drlg. Mgmt. Svcs., Ltd. v. Newton.
The OCSLA additionally supplies unique federal jurisdiction over circumstances and controversies arising out of or in reference to OCS operations involving exploration, improvement, or manufacturing of minerals. 43 U.S.C. § 1349. The time period “operations” was not outlined within the statute. The expanse of federal jurisdiction to claims linked to OCS operations or commerce has been important. For example, in Pacific Operators v. Valladolid (2012), the U.S. Supreme Court docket offered Longshore and Harbor Employee Compensation Act (LHWCA) advantages through the OCSLA to a employee injured on land beneath a considerable nexus take a look at.
Mays v. Chevron Holding
In Mays v. Chevron (August 2020), the Fifth Circuit not too long ago prolonged the attain of the OCSLA jurisdictional lengthy arm to an damage occurring in state waters on a hard and fast platform.
Mr. Mays was killed as the results of a pipeline explosion whereas engaged on a hard and fast platform situated inside state waters. The pipeline was transporting fuel flowing from OCS amenities towards the shore. The explosion shut down OCS amenities producing the fuel being transported to shore. The central query earlier than the Fifth Circuit was whether or not dying advantages owed because of Mr. Mays’ dying have been topic to the OCSLA, which offered LHWCA protection , or topic to state legislation offering employee’s compensation advantages. In essence, when does federal legislation beneath the OCSLA lengthen to platform incidents occurring inside state waters?
The slim holding of Mays is that the LHWCA, and never state legislation staff’ compensation, utilized to this wrongful dying declare as a result of the pipeline carrying fuel from the OCS to a platform situated in state waters offered a hyperlink between the damage and “extractive operations” on the OCS in order to invoke the OCSLA jurisdiction. The broader attain of the holding is that federal legislation and jurisdiction can lengthen to incidents occurring in state waters or on shore when a declare outcomes from a “substantial nexus to OCS extractive operations.” Situs is just not the easy jurisdictional take a look at.
The Fifth Circuit in Mays embraced the expansive attain and lengthy arm of the OCSLA. The substantial nexus take a look at supplied by the U.S. Supreme Court docket in Pacific Operators Offshore, LLP v. Valladolid disregarded a “situs of damage” take a look at in tort claims. The Fifth Circuit in Mays, with the steerage of Valladolid, targeted on the character of the operations and never the particular work going down because it associated to the declare in figuring out the OCSLA applicability beneath a considerable nexus evaluation. In affirming a jury verdict, the Fifth Circuit in Mays distinguished its earlier choice in Herb’s Welding v. Grey. Grey additionally concerned an explosion on a platform situated inside state waters that was not directly related to OCS operations the place that platform’s circulate line was related to a second platform that was related to a 3rd platform that was related to OCS operations. Though Herb’s Welding introduced a scenario the place the work and damage have been throughout the penumbra of OCS operations, the Mays courtroom didn’t think about there to be sufficient of a hyperlink in Herb’s Welding with a view to invoke the OCSLA, and thus distinguished it. In reaching its choice in Mays, the Fifth Circuit thought of the related platform operations and the nexus of the declare to particular OCS actions. Was there a hyperlink between the incident and the OCS operations with out regard to situs? The Fifth Circuit expanded the lengthy arm of the OCSLA by merely requiring a “hyperlink between the damage and the extractive operations on the Shelf.”
For the practitioner, Mays can also broaden the attain of OCSLA with respect to elimination of claims primarily based on the federal query jurisdiction beneath 28 USC 1331 for incidents occurring inside state waters or lands however nonetheless linked to OCS operations. The substantial nexus take a look at, specializing in the character of the operations and never the situs of the declare, is firmly embedded inside Fifth Circuit priority and expands the attain of the OCSLA.