The constantly dispiriting news about the uncontrolled oil and gas well 50 miles off Louisiana generally doesn’t address the financial loss resulting from the wasted oil and gas. This brings up the question of who owns the oil and gas that is escaping.
While BP is losing in every possible way, including financially, the loss of income from the wasted oil and gas extends to the United States Treasury, the coffers of states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, and two federally-administered funds, the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Historic Preservation Fund. This publication of the Minerals Management Service gives an overview of the process of oil and gas leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico.
In short, the oil and gas underlying the Outer Continental Shelf belongs to the people of the United States. The Department of the Interior’s Mineral Management Service acts as the trustee for the people of the United States in managing this resource.
I had a long discussion about this with my father today, who, as you know, served as legal counsel for a major oil exploration firm for over two decades.
There were many solutions that would have limited the damage but the Federal Government wouldn’t give the permits.