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Pacific Merchant Shipping Ass'n v. Goldstene

ELR Citation: 41 ELR 20126
Nos. No. 09-17765, (9th Cir., 03/28/2011)

The Ninth Circuit upheld, on statutory and constitutional grounds, California's vessel fuel rules as they apply to vessels located more than three miles off the California coast. The rules, which seek to reduce air pollutants affecting the state of California, require ocean-going vessels to use cleaner marine fuels. A shipping vessel association sought declaratory and injunctive relief on the grounds that the rules, insofar as they purport to regulate conduct seaward of California's three-mile boundary, are preempted by the Submerged Lands Act. But in light of the applicable presumption against preemption, the lower court properly denied the association's motion for summary judgment. A state law regulating extraterritorial conduct in the high seas immediately adjacent to the state's territorial waters that satisfies the well-established effects test should generally be sustained. Applying the effects test to the vessel fuel rules at issue here, the court concluded that there are genuine issues of material fact with respect to the regulations' effects on the health and well-being of the state's residents as well as the actual impact of these regulations on maritime and foreign commerce. The association also failed to show that it was entitled to summary judgment on its claims that the rules violate the dormant Commerce Clause and general maritime law. The exceptionally powerful state interest at issue here far outweighs any countervailing federal interests, and neither the Commerce Clause nor general maritime law should be used to bar a state from exercising its own police powers in order to combat these severe problems.