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Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. Hammond

Citation: 14 ELR 20305
No. No. 81-3700, 726 F.2d 483/20 ERC 1505/(9th Cir., 02/03/1984)

The court holds that an Alaska statute prohibiting the discharge into state territorial waters of any ballast water from the oil cargo tanks of vessels is not preempted by federal laws that also regulate ballast water discharges. Coast Guard regulations under the Ports and Waterways Safety Act as amended by the Ports and Tanker Safety Act (PWSA/PTSA) except "clean" ballast discharges from the general proscription on deballasting within 50 miles of shore. First, the court holds that the PWSA/PTSA does not expressly preempt state pollution regulation and the judicial determination that the PWSA/PTSA preempts state regulation of vessel design is not dispositive of the preemption issue raised by Alaska's antipollution law. It notes that the legislative history of the PWSA/PTSA is silent or whether state pollution regulation is preempted but that the federal regulatory scheme for protecting state territorial waters, particularly the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA), is evidence of Congress' intent to allow states to impose pollution standards stricter than the federal government's. It further holds that the comprehensive nature of the regulatory scheme of the PWSA/PTSA does not conclusively demonstrate an intent to preempt, since complex fields will naturally spawn detailed regulatory schemes. The court notes that there is no need for national uniformity in coastal environmental regulation, nor does such regulation have to be coordinated with international interest. In fact, the PWSA/PTSA allows the United States standards to be stricter than international treaty standards. Further, the legislative history of the Oil Pollution Act Amendments of 1973 shows that Congress contemplated states establishing oil pollution control standards under the FWPCA that would be stricter than the federal standards set by the Coast Guard. Therefore, the court holds that Congress did not intend the PWSA/PTSA to occupy the field of tanker pollution regulation.

Next, the court holds that the Alaska law is consistent with the PWSA/PTSA. The state statute's goal is the same as the goal of the FWPCA and compatible with the goals of the PWSA/PTSA. In an area of collaborative regulation, coincidence of purpose militates against preemption. And, as the state law merely regulates conduct permitted by an exception to a broad federal prohibition, a finding of preemption is inappropriate. Considering whether compliance with both federal and state laws is possible, the court holds that it is physically possible to comply with both. The court rejects as falsely premised Chevron's argument that the state statute conflicts with the Coast Guard's regulatory scheme because it renders superfluous expensive equipment required under the federal scheme. The court also rejects the argument that the state statute regulates tanker design. Finally, the court rejects as irrelevant the argument that such a regulation enacted by other states could cause local on-shore ballast-processing facilities to be overloaded.

Counsel for Appellant
Douglas Mertz, Ass't Attorney General
Pouch K, State Capitol, Juneau AK 99811
(907) 465-3600

Counsel for Appellants-Intervenors
Robert E. Mintz
Trustees for Alaska
833 Gambell St., Anchorage AK 99501
(907) 276-4244

Counsel for Appellees
Michael Robbins
Hartig, Rhodes, Norman, Mahoney & Edwards
717 K St., Anchorage AK 99501
(907) 274-3576

John A. Treptow
Atkinson, Conway, Bell & Gagnon
Suite 500, 420 L St., Anchorage AK 99501
(907) 279-5563

Before PREGERSON, ALARCON, and NELSON, Circuit Judges.