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In re Deepwater Horizon

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20041
Nos. 12-30012, (5th Cir., 02/24/2014)

The Fifth Circuit affirmed a lower court decision dismissing a lawsuit filed by 11 Louisiana parishes in which they sought penalties under the Louisiana Wildlife Protection Statute for the pollution-related loss of aquatic life and wildlife following the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The parishes originally filed suit in state court, but the case was removed to federal court, which then dismissed the claims as preempted under federal law. The appellate court agreed. The blowout and spill occurred on the outer continental shelf, and under OCSLA, “all law applicable to the outer continental shelf is federal law,” and all cases “involving events occurring on the shelf [are] governed by federal law." Alternatively, maritime law applies because the Deepwater Horizon is a vessel. As such, "federal law, the law of the point source, exclusively applies to the claims generated by the oil spill in any affected state or locality." Because OPA and the CWA furnish a comprehensive remedial regime for the parishes' claims, the Wildlife Statute claims are preempted. And despite the parishes' arguments to the contrary, the savings clauses of OPA and the CWA do not apply.