Political dispute and litigation beginning in 1945 regarding state versus federal ownership of submerged offshore lands, or tidelands.
The tidelands, a three-mile strip of submerged land along the coast, traditionally were controlled by the states. When California, Louisiana, and Texas issued offshore oil leases in the 1920’s and 1930’s, federal and state governments began to see the tidelands as a possible source of revenue. The first real challenge to the states’ jurisdiction was in 1945, when the Continental Shelf Proclamation gave the federal government jurisdiction over the mineral resources in submerged lands on the continental shelf. Litigation over tidelands began in May, 1945, when the federal government sought to enjoin Pacific Western Oil, a private corporation, from drilling offshore near Santa Barbara, California. This suit was strategically withdrawn in October in order to concentrate on the issue of state ownership in the cases United States v. California
This editorial cartoon satirizes the Republican Party’s decision to add state ownership of offshore oil to its platform during the 1952 presidential election.
In the majority opinion in the tidelands cases, Justice Hugo L. Black denied all state claims to title, invoking “paramount” national rights. United States v. California
Congress responded by passing remedial legislation, the Submerged Lands Act
Bailey, Ernest R. The Tidelands Oil Controversy: A Legal and Historical Analysis. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1953. Dary, Benjamin. Essential Injustice: When Legal Institutions Cannot Resolve Environmental and Land Use Disputes. New York: Springer Verlag, 1997. Keeton, W. Page. “Federal and State Claims to Submerged Lands Under Coastal Waters.” Texas Law Review 25 (1947): 262.
California, United States v.
States’ rights and state sovereignty