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Cities Serv. Pipe Line Co. v. United States

ELR Citation: 14 ELR 20857
Nos. No. 84-845, 742 F.2d 626/21 ERC 1575/(Fed. Cir., 09/06/1984) Aff'd

The court holds that appellant pipeline company is not entitled to recover its oil spill cleanup costs under §311(i)(1)(D) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA), because its failure to use reasonable care to detect and repair the damage caused by a third party contributed to the rupture of the pipeline. The court first notes that the FWPCA requirement that the discharge be caused solely by an act or omission of a third party for costs to be recoverable should be interpreted to excuse an owner or operator from liability where the discharge is completly beyond its control. Thus, contrary to the ruling of the claims courts, 14 ELR 20075, appellant's normal use of the pipeleine was not an act contributing to the spill. The court then observes, however, that appellant bears the burden of proving it could not have prevented the spill by exercising reasonable care. The court rules that because appellant was aware of the likelihood of damage to the pipeline and did not have an adequate inspection program, it did not use reasonable care and therefore may not recover cleanup costs.

Counsel are listed at 14 ELR 20075.

Joined by Markey and Davis, JJ.