Coastal Zone Management Act

Congress enacted the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) (16 U.S.C. 1451 et seq.) to protect the coastal environment from growing demands associated with residential, recreational, commercial, and industrial uses (e.g., State and Federal offshore oil and gas development). The CZMA provisions help States develop coastal management programs (Programs) to manage and balance competing uses of the coastal zone. Federal Agencies must follow the Federal Consistency provisions as delineated in 15 CFR part 930. 


What is "Federal Consistency"?

The CZMA requires that Federal actions that are reasonably likely to affect any land or water use or natural resource of the coastal zone be consistent with enforceable policies of a State's federally-approved coastal management program. The "effects test" is used to determine whether an activity is subject to Federal consistency provisions: 

  • Will the activity directly, indirectly, or cumulatively affect any natural resources, land uses, or water uses in the coastal zone? 
  • If yes, then the activity is subject to Federal consistency. 
  • What are the different "Federal Consistency" standards? 
  • Federal Agency activities must be "consistent to the maximum extent practicable" with enforceable policies (e.g., OCS lease sales) (Subpart C). 
  • Private activities requiring a Federal license/permit must be "fully consistent" with enforceable policies (e.g., geological & geophysical permits) (Subpart D). 
  • OCS plan activities must be "fully consistent" with enforceable policies (exploration, development & production activities) (Subpart E). 
  • Federal assistance to State and local governments must be "fully consistent" with enforceable policies (e.g., grants) (Subpart F). 

What do the different Subparts we might deal with mean?

Federal Agency Activities: (Subpart C)

  • The Federal Agency prepares a Consistency Determination (CD) stating that its activity is either "fully consistent" or consistent "to the maximum extent practicable." 
  • The State concurs with or objects to the CD. If the State objects, the Federal Agency can still proceed with its activity if: it (1) describes the legal impediments to being fully consistent, or (2) it concludes that the activity is fully consistent. 

Private Activities Requiring Federal Licenses or Permits: (Subpart D)

  • The "Applicant" prepares a Consistency Certification (CC) stating that its licensed/permitted activity is "fully consistent. 
  • The State concurs with or objects to the certification. If the State objects, the Federal Agency is prohibited from issuing the objected-to permit. 
  • To proceed, the applicant either appropriately amends the license/permit or successfully appeals the State's objection to the Secretary of Commerce. 

OCS Exploration, Development and Production Activities: (Subpart E)

  • A "Person" prepares a CC stating that any activity described in detail in an OCS plan is "fully consistent".  
  • The State concurs with or objects to the certification. If the State objects, the Federal Agency is prohibited from issuing the objected-to permit. 
  • To proceed, the applicant either appropriately amends its OCS plan or successfully appeals the State's objection to the Secretary of Commerce. 
  • Additional State consistency review of Federal licenses/permits described in an OCS plan is not required by the CZMA after the State concurs with consistency, the Federal Agency presumes consistency, or an applicant successfully appeals a State's consistency objection to the Secretary of Commerce. 

Federal Assistance to State and Local Governments: (Subpart F)
[Note: We currently do not have anything subject to Subpart F] 

  • The "Applicant Agency" submits an application for Federal assistance to the Federal Agency with a copy to the State(s). 
  • The "Applicant Agency" submits to the State(s), with a copy to the Federal Agency, a brief evaluation on the relationship of the proposed activity and any reasonably foreseeable coastal effects to the enforceable policies of the management program. 
  • The Federal Agency can only grant Federal Assistance if the State does not object to the Applicant Agency evaluation, or upon override by the Secretary of Commerce. 
  • If the Federal Agency decides to reject the application, it must immediately notify both the Applicant Agency and the affected State(s). 

How does Federal Consistency Affect the OCS Program?

States can review OCS lease sales for Federal consistency because the lease sales can affect land/water use or natural resources of the coastal zone. The Federal Agency (BOEM) describes how the sale is consistent "to the maximum extent practicable" with the Program's enforceable policies in a "consistency determination." We send a copy to each affected State for Federal consistency review. The State must agree with or disagree with the consistency determination within a designated time period. If the State agrees, we can hold the lease sale. If the State disagrees, it must describe the inconsistency and any alternative measures that would allow the sale to be consistent to the maximum extent practicable with the Program's enforceable policies. Generally, we try to resolve any differences with the State; however, the CZMA allows us to proceed with the lease sale notwithstanding any unresolved disagreements. As well, the State and BOEM can ask the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for mediation to work out the differences. 

OCS Plans

The States can review OCS exploration and development and production plans (DPPs or Development Operations Coordination Documents in the Western Gulf of Mexico) for Federal consistency. The OCS lessee prepares a "consistency certification" and "necessary data and information" and submits it to us when filing the proposed Plan. We send a copy of the Plan and CZM information to the affected State's coastal agency for Federal consistency review and decision. Each State decides whether the Plan is consistent with enforceable policies of its Program. The State must concur with or object to the lessee's consistency certification within a designated time period. If the State does not meet the deadline, CZMA provisions render the Plan consistent ("conclusively presumed"). If the State concurs, we can approve the plan, and the lessee can begin activities. If the State objects to an Exploration Plan, we can approve the plan but cannot issue permits for that Plan. If the State objects to a DPP or DOCD, we are prohibited from approving the DPP or DOCD, and (1) the lessee can appeal the State's decision to the Department of Commerce, or (2) the lessee can amend the plan and resubmit it to BOEM for approval and to the State for Federal consistency review. 

OCS Permits (Geologic and Geophysical and Pipeline Right-of-Way)

A State can review those OCS permits identified in its Program for Federal consistency. If the State wants to review a permit that is not identified, it follows NOAA's procedures to ask permission to review and add the permit to its Program. The Federal consistency review process for permits is similar to the process for OCS Plans. The State must concur with or object to the lessee's consistency certification within a designated time period. If the State does not meet the deadline, CZMA provisions render the permit consistent ("conclusively presumed"). If the State concurs, we can approve the permit, and the lessee can begin activities. If the State objects, we are prohibited from approving the permit, and (1) the lessee can appeal the State's decision to the Department of Commerce, or (2) the lessee can amend the proposed activities associated permit and resubmit it to BOEM for approval and to the State for Federal consistency review.