United States v. Locke, 529 U.S. 89, 21 (2000)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit

No. 98-1701. Argued December 7, 1999—Decided March 6, 2000*

After the supertanker Torrey Canyon spilled crude oil off the coast of

England in 1967, both Congress, in the Ports and Waterways Safety Act of 1972 (PWSA), and the State of Washington enacted more stringent regulations for tankers and provided for more comprehensive remedies in the event of an oil spill. The ensuing question of federal pre-emption of the State's laws was addressed in Ray v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 435 U. S. 151. In 1989, the supertanker Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska, causing the largest oil spill in United States history. Again, both Congress and Washington responded. Congress enacted the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA). The State created a new agency and directed it to establish standards to provide the "best achievable protection" (BAP) from oil spill damages. That agency promulgated tanker design, equipment, reporting, and operating requirements. Petitioner International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (Intertanko), a trade association of tanker operators, brought this suit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against state and local officials responsible for enforcing the BAP regulations. Upholding the regulations, the District Court rejected Intertanko's arguments that the BAP standards invaded an area long pre-empted by the Federal Government. At the appeal stage, the United States intervened on Intertanko's behalf, contending that the District Court's ruling failed to give sufficient weight to the substantial foreign affairs interests of the Federal Government. The Ninth Circuit held that the State could enforce its laws, save one requiring vessels to install certain navigation and towing equipment, which was "virtually identical to" requirements declared pre-empted in Ray.

Held: Washington's regulations regarding general navigation watch procedures, crew English language skills and training, and maritime casualty reporting are pre-empted by the comprehensive federal regulatory scheme governing oil tankers; these cases are remanded so the

*Together with No. 98-1706, International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (Intertanko) v. Locke, Governor of Washington, et al., also on certiorari to the same court.


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