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Lake Carriers' Ass'n v. Kelley

Citation: 12 ELR 20350
No. No. 36194, 527 F. Supp. 1114/17 ERC 1305/(E.D. Mich., 12/16/1981) Judgment entered for defendants

The district court holds that § 312(f)(3) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) and the Michigan Watercraft Control Act of 1970 (MWCA) neither violate the Equal Protection Clause nor contravene congressional treaty-making powers. Initially, the court rules that Michigan's 1975 application to the Environmental Protection Agency, filed pursuant to § 312(f)(3), which authorizes states to prohibit vessels from discharging sewage into state waters, seeking to implement the MWCA, which prohibits the release of treated and untreated sewage into Michigan waters, was not premature even though the three types of vessels to which the FWPCA applies were not all subject to state regulation at that time. Turning to the constitutionality of § 312(f)(3), the court rejects plaintiffs' argument that the Admiralty Clause precludes states' regulation of shipowners. The uniformity principles inherent in the Admiralty Clause do not preclude state regulation of pollution where there is no direct conflict with federal law. The FWPCA not only specifically provides for the state's prohibition on sewage discharges but retains federal authority over the state's right to adopt more stringent restrictions than those of the federal government. The court also rules that the MWCA does not violate the Equal Protection Clause. It was reasonable for Michigan, with its long shoreline, to be concerned about coastal pollution and to take advantage of the FWPCA's exception for stronger state discharge standards. In addition, the MWCA's distinction between mobile polluters and shore-based, stationary sources is not arbitrary since the latter are fixed, identifiable, and easier to monitor. Finally, the court rules that the FWPCA and the MWCA do not conflict with the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 or the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1972 because the acts neither impinge upon free navigation for Canadian vessels nor subject Canadian vessels to standards different from those applicable to American vessels.

[For a related decision in this case, see 10 ELR 20767 — Ed.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Scott H. Elder
Ray, Robinson, Hanninen & Carle
1050 Union Commerce Bldg., Cleveland OH 44115
(216) 861-4533

Prentiss M. Brown Jr.
Brown & Brown
First Nat'l Bank Bldg., St. Ignace MI 49781
(706) 643-7800

Counsel for Defendants
Russell E. Prins, Ass't Attorney General
Lands, Lakes & Leases Division
Law Bldg., Lansing MI 48913
(517) 373-1110

Marlin F. Scholl
Scholl, Robinson & Steig
Suite 1880, Renaissance Ctr., Detroit MI 48243
(313) 259-3070

Before EDWARDS, Chief Circuit Judge, KEITH, Circuit Judge and PRATT,1 District Judge.