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Alyeska Pipeline Serv. Co. v. United States

Citation: 11 ELR 20592
No. No. 446-79L, 649 F.2d 831/16 ERC 1812/(Ct. Cl., 05/06/1981)

The court rules that § 204(b) of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act bars recovery under § 311 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) for cleanup costs due to an oil spill caused by a third party. The pipeline owners sought recovery from the United States for repair and oil removal costs they incurred when the pipeline was sabotaged by an unknown third party. Section 311 of the FWPCA permits the owner or operator of a discharging facility to recover cleanup costs from the United States if a third party caused the discharge. However, the court rules that the later-enacted Pipeline Act, which provides that cleanup costs are "at the expense" of pipeline owners, prevails over the earlier-enacted FWPCA. The Pipeline Act imposes strict liability for any pollution resulting from the operation of the pipeline. Plaintiffs' argument that § 204(b) was intended only to remove the limits set by the FWPCA on cleanup costs the United States may recover from owners is meritless. The court also rejects plaintiffs' argument that the § 204(b) provision that cleanup costs "shall be at the expense of" the pipeline owners permits subsequent recovery from the United States. Finally, the court rejects the argument that if Congress intended to make the § 311 provision inapplicable to liability under the Pipeline Act, it would have so provided in § 311.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Ernest C. Baynard III, Alfred T. Smith
Connole and O'Connell
One Farragut Sq. S., Washington DC 20006
(202) 347-8300

Counsel for Defendants
James W. Moorman, Ass't Attorney General; Raymond W. Mushal, Donald W. Stever Jr.
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2701

James K. Augustine
Office of Chief Counsel
United States Coast Guard, 2110 2d St. SW, Washington DC 20593
(202) 426-2245

Before FRIEDMAN, Chief Judge, COWEN, Senior Judge, and KUNZIG, Judge.