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United States v. Coastal States Crude Gathering Co.

ELR Citation: 11 ELR 20438
Nos. No. 80-1533, 643 F.2d 1125/15 ERC 2105/(5th Cir., 04/27/1981)

The court modifies and affirms the imposition of an automatic civil penalty upon the owner of an oil pipeline from which oil was discharged into navigable waters due to the act of a third party. Section 311(b)(6) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, unlike other provisions of the Act relating to oil spills, makes the owner of a discharging facility strictly liable for a civil penalty regardless of fault. The court finds that this scheme is not unconstitutional as it is a rational component of the congressionally created program for protecting the nation's waters against oil spills. However, the court finds that the government's request for the maximum penalty allowed under the provision, $5,000, was either inadvertent or inappropriate and reduces the trial court's judgment from $5,000 to $1,000.

Counsel for Appellant
Martin W. Matzen; James W. Moorman, Ass't Attorney General; Anne S. Almy
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2850

Counsel for Appellee
David S. Gamble
Coastal State Gas Corp.
Suite 826, 9 Greenway Plaza, Houston TX 77046
(713) 877-6835

Before INGRAHAM, POLITZ, and WILLIAMS, Circuit Judges.