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Olympic Pipe Line Co. v. Seattle, City of

ELR Citation: 36 ELR 20033
Nos. No. 04-35307, (9th Cir., 02/08/2006)

The court holds that the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002 preempts a city's regulatory efforts to provide safety oversight of a hazardous liquid pipeline within city boundaries. After a section of a hazardous liquid pipeline exploded in Seattle, Washington, the city refused to renew the pipeline operator's franchise for the section of pipeline within the city limits until the operator complied with the city's list of pipeline safety demands. The Pipeline Safety Improvement Act, however, preempts the city's efforts. The U.S. Department of Transportation has not delegated the city authority to regulate intrastate pipelines and impose safety requirements. Rather, this authority was delegated to a state commission. Nor do the city's actions fall within the market proprietor exception. In requiring the operator to comply with certain safety demands, Seattle was acting as a regulator rather than as a municipal proprietor. The court, therefore, affirmed the lower court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the operator, as well as its preliminary injunction halting Seattle's effort to shut down the pipeline.