534 U.S. 235 (2002), 00-927, Chao v. Mallard Bay Drilling, Inc.

Docket NºCase No. 00-927
Citation534 U.S. 235, 122 S.Ct. 738, 151 L.Ed.2d 659, 70 U.S.L.W. 4065
Party NameCHAO, SECRETARY OF LABOR v. MALLARD BAY DRILLING, INC.
Case DateJanuary 09, 2002
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 235

534 U.S. 235 (2002)

122 S.Ct. 738, 151 L.Ed.2d 659, 70 U.S.L.W. 4065

CHAO, SECRETARY OF LABOR

v.

MALLARD BAY DRILLING, INC.

Case No. 00-927

United States Supreme Court

January 9, 2002

Argued October 31, 2001

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

While Rig 52, respondent's oil and gas exploration barge, was drilling a well in Louisiana's territorial waters, an explosion on board killed or injured several workers. Pursuant to its statutory authority, the United States Coast Guard investigated the incident, but did not accuse respondent of violating any of its regulations. Indeed, the Coast Guard noted that the barge was an "uninspected vessel," see 46 U.S.C. §2101(43), as opposed to an "inspected vessel" subject to comprehensive Coast Guard regulation, see §3301. Subsequently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited respondent for violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act or Act) and its regulations. Respondent challenged OSHA's jurisdiction to issue the citations on the grounds that Rig 52 was not a "workplace" under § 4(a) of the Act and that § 4(b)(1) of the Act pre-empted OSHA jurisdiction because the Coast Guard had exclusive authority to prescribe and enforce occupational safety and health standards on vessels such as Rig 52. In rejecting both challenges, the Administrative Law Judge found that Rig 52 was a "workplace" under the Act and held that the Coast Guard had not pre-empted OSHA's jurisdiction, explaining that there was no industry-wide exemption from OSHA regulations for uninspected vessels and no Coast Guard regulation specifically regulating the citations' subject matter. The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission issued a final order assessing a penalty against respondent. Without addressing the § 4(a) issue, the Fifth Circuit reversed, holding that the Coast Guard's exclusive jurisdiction over the regulation of seamen's working conditions aboard vessels such as Rig 52 precluded OSHA's regulation under § 4(b)(1), and that this pre-emption encompassed both inspected and uninspected vessels.

Held:

1. Because the Coast Guard has neither affirmatively regulated the working conditions at issue, nor asserted comprehensive regulatory jurisdiction over working conditions on uninspected vessels, it has not exercised its authority under § 4(b)(1). The OSH Act does not apply to working conditions as to which other federal agencies "exercise" statutory authority to prescribe or enforce occupational safety and health

Page 236

standards or regulations. § 4(b)(1), 29 U.S.C. § 653(b)(1). Congress' use of "exercise" makes clear that mere possession by another federal agency of unexercised authority is insufficient to displace OSHA's jurisdiction. Furthermore, another federal agency's minimal exercise of some authority over certain vessel conditions does not result in complete pre-emption of OSHA jurisdiction. To determine whether Coast Guard regulations have pre-empted jurisdiction over Rig 52's working conditions, it is thus necessary to examine the contours of the Coast Guard's exercise of its statutory authority. With respect to inspected vessels, the parties do not dispute that OSHA's regulations have been pre-empted because the Coast Guard has exercised its broad statutory authority over workers' occupational health and safety, 46 U.S.C. § 3306. Indeed, OSHA and the Coast Guard signed a Memorandum of Understanding recognizing that the Coast Guard has displaced OSHA's jurisdiction over all working conditions on inspected vessels, including those not addressed by specific regulations. In contrast, the Coast Guard's regulatory authority over uninspected vessels is more limited. Its general maritime regulations do not address the occupational safety and health concerns faced by inland drilling operations on such vessels and, thus, do not pre-empt OSHA's authority in this case. And, although the Coast Guard has engaged in a limited exercise of its authority to regulate specific working conditions on certain types of uninspected vessels, respondent has not identified any specific regulations addressing the types of risk and vessel at issue here. Pp. 240-245.

2. Rig 52 was a "workplace" under § 4(a) of the Act. It was located within a geographic area described in§ 4(a)—a State—and § 4(a) attaches no significance to the fact that it was anchored in navigable waters. P. 245.

212 F.3d 898, reversed.

Stevens, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all other Members joined, except Scalia, J., who took no part in the decision of the case.

Matthew D. Roberts argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs were Solicitor General Olson, Acting Solicitor General Underwood, Deputy Solicitor General Kneedler, Judith E. Kramer, Allen H. Feldman, NathanielI. Spiller, Ellen L. Beard, Edward D. Sieger, James S. Carmichael, and Robert F. Duncan.

Page 237

Patrick J. Veters argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief was John L. Duvieilh. [*]

Justice Stevens delivered the opinion of the Court.

Respondent operates a fleet of barges used for oil and gas exploration. On April 9, 1997, one of those barges, "Rig 52," was towed to a location in the territorial waters of Louisiana, where it drilled a well over two miles deep. On June 16, 1997, when the crew had nearly completed drilling, an explosion occurred, killing four members of the crew and injuring two others. Under United States Coast Guard regulations, the incident qualified as a "marine casualty" because it involved a commercial vessel operating "upon the navigable waters of the United States." 46 CFR § 4.03-1 (2000).

Pursuant to its statutory authority, the Coast Guard conducted an investigation of the casualty. See 46 U.S.C. §§ 6101-6104, 6301-6308 (1994 ed. and Supp. V).[1] The resulting report was limited in scope to what the Coast Guard described as "purely vessel issues," and noted that the Coast Guard "does not regulate mineral drilling operations in state waters, and does not have the expertise to adequately analyze all issues relating to the failure of an oil/natural gas well." App. to Pet. for Cert. 24a. The Coast Guard determined that natural gas had leaked from the well, spread throughout the barge, and was likely ignited by sparks in the pump room. The report made factual findings concerning the crew's actions, but did not accuse respondent of violating any Coast Guard regulations. Indeed, the report noted the

Page 238

limits of the Coast Guard's regulation of vessels such as Rig 52: The report explained that, although Rig 52 held a Coast Guard Certificate of Documentation, it had "never been inspected by the Coast Guard and is not required to hold a Certificate of Inspection or be inspected by the Coast Guard." Id., at 27a. In Coast Guard terminology, Rig 52 was an "uninspected vessel," see 46 U.S.C. § 2101(43), as opposed to one of the 14 varieties of "inspected vessels" subject to comprehensive Coast Guard regulation, see 46 U.S.C. § 3301 (1994 ed. and Supp. V).

Based largely on information obtained from the Coast Guard concerning this incident, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited respondent for three violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act or Act), 84 Stat. 1590, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 651 et seq. (1994 ed. and Supp. V), and the Act's implementing regulations. The citations alleged that respondent failed promptly to evacuate employees on board the drilling rig; failed to develop and implement an emergency response plan to handle anticipated emergencies; and failed to train employees in emergency response. No. 97-1973, 1998 WL 917067, *1 (OSHRC, Dec. 28, 1998). Respondent did not deny the charges, but challenged OSHA's jurisdiction to issue the citations on two grounds: that Rig 52 was not a "workplace" within the meaning of § 4(a) of the Act;[2] and that § 4(b)(1) of the Act pre-empted OSHA jurisdiction because the Coast Guard had exclusive authority to prescribe

Page 239

and enforce standards concerning occupational safety and health on vessels in navigable waters.[3]

The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) rejected both jurisdictional challenges. Finding that respondent's "employees were not performing navigational-related activities" and that Rig 52 "was stationary and within the territorial boundaries of the State of Louisiana," he concluded that Rig 52 was a "workplace" within the meaning of the Act. Id., at *3. The ALJ then held that the Coast Guard had not pre-empted OSHA's jurisdiction under § 4(b)(1), explaining that respondent had identified no basis for an "industry-wide exemption from OSHA regulations" for uninspected vessels, and had failed to identify any Coast Guard regulation "specifically regulat[ing]" the subject matter of the citations. Id., at *4. In the ALJ's view, another federal agency cannot pre-empt OSHA's jurisdiction under § 4(b)(1) unless that agency exercises its statutory authority to regulate a particular working condition: Mere possession of the power to regulate is not enough.[4] The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission declined review of the ALJ's decision...

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13 practice notes
  • COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing; Emergency Temporary Standard
    • United States
    • Occupational Safety And Health Administration
    • Invalid date
    ...4(b)(1) of the OSH Act, the regulations and enforcement policies of other federal agencies. See, e.g., Chao v. Mallard Bay Drilling, Inc., 534 U.S. 235, 241 \1\ The Secretary has delegated most of his duties under the OSH Act to the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and H......
  • Employment law violations.
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Vol. 52 Nbr. 4, September 2015
    • September 22, 2015
    ...or enforce standards or regulations affecting occupational safety and health."). (44.) See Chao v. Mallard Bay Drilling, Inc., 534 U.S. 235, 241 (2002) (holding that the OSH Act does not "extend to working conditions that are regulated by other federal agencies"; however, &qu......
  • Employment-related crimes.
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Vol. 45 Nbr. 2, March 2008
    • March 22, 2008
    ...over coal mine operations was preempted by the FMSHA, 30 U.S.C. [section][section] 801-962), with Chao v. Mallard Bay Drilling, 534 U.S. 235, 241 (2002) (holding OSHA's regulatory power is not preempted by U.S. Coast Guard regulations). (40.) The defense is also known as the unpreventable o......
  • Employment-related crimes.
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Vol. 43 Nbr. 2, March 2006
    • March 22, 2006
    ...jurisdiction over coal mine operations was preempted by the FMSHA, 30 U.S.C. [sub section] 801-962), with Chao v. Mallard Bay Drilling, 534 U.S. 235,241 (2002) (holding OSHA's regulatory power is not preempted by U.S. Coast Guard (38.) The defense is also known as the unpreventable or unfor......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
38 cases
  • 990 N.E.2d 947 (Ind.App. 2013), 85A02-1207-CT-586, Huffman v. Dexter Axle Co.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • May 31, 2013
    ...added). This interpretation of section 4(b)(1) was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in Chao v. Mallard Bay Drilling, Inc. 534 U.S. 235, 122 S.Ct. 738, 151 L.Ed.2d 659 (2002). In Chao, the Supreme Court reversed a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision holding that Coast Guard regu......
  • Clark v. Providence and Worcester Railroad Co., 072611 MADC, 09-10328-FDS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • July 26, 2011
    ...its authority over this area appears to be sufficient to trigger § 653 and oust OSHA jurisdiction. See Chao v. Mallard Bay Drilling, Inc., 534 U.S. 235, 243 (2002) ("[A]nother agency may exercise' its authority within the meaning of [§ 653(b)(1)] either by promulgating specific regulat......
  • Namer v. Haynes, 111813 TNWDC, 13-2049-STA/cgc
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 6th Circuit Western District of Tennessee
    • November 18, 2013
    ...resentencing because he had been sentenced under a mandatory-Guidelines scheme, in violation of United States v. Booker , 543 U.S. 200, 122 S.Ct. 738, 160 L.Ed.2d 621 (2005). (Cr. ECF No. 654; United States v. Namer , 149 Fed.App'x 385 (6th Cir. Aug. 25, 2005).) On remand, the Judge Donald ......
  • 822 So.2d 869 (La.App. 3 Cir. 2002), 02-0172, Muhammad v. Diamond Offshore Co.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Louisiana (US)
    • July 10, 2002
    ...to Remand asking that we remand this matter to the trial court for further proceedings in light of Chao v. Mallard Bay Drilling, Inc., 534 U.S. 235, 122 S.Ct. 738, 151 L.Ed.2d 659 (2002). Chao dealt with the applicability of OSHA regulations to a vessel which had not been inspected by the C......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 firm's commentaries
  • OSHA on the OCS? Fifth Circuit Affirms Preemption of OSHA Regulations on OCS MODU
    • United States
    • JD Supra United States
    • March 12, 2018
    ...“uninspected” and that OSHA regulations were thus not preempted under the Supreme Court’s holding in Chao v. Mallard Bay Drilling, Inc, 534 U.S. 235, 122 S. Ct. 738, 742 (2002) (USCG regulations preempt OSHA regulations for “inspected” vessels, but not for “uninspected” vessels unless the U......
  • Guidance From PHMSA Reflects Expanded PHMSA Regulation of Midstream NGL Facilities
    • United States
    • JD Supra United States
    • November 7, 2013
    ...working conditions in a given field before OSHA regulations governing that field are preempted. Chao v. Mallard Bay Drilling, Inc., 534 U.S. 235 PHMSA Letters Interpreting Part 195 The plant operator’s request for jurisdictional guidance mentioned earlier posed two questions regarding the s......
10 books & journal articles
  • Employment law violations.
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Vol. 52 Nbr. 4, September 2015
    • September 22, 2015
    ...or enforce standards or regulations affecting occupational safety and health."). (44.) See Chao v. Mallard Bay Drilling, Inc., 534 U.S. 235, 241 (2002) (holding that the OSH Act does not "extend to working conditions that are regulated by other federal agencies"; however, &qu......
  • Employment-related crimes.
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Vol. 45 Nbr. 2, March 2008
    • March 22, 2008
    ...over coal mine operations was preempted by the FMSHA, 30 U.S.C. [section][section] 801-962), with Chao v. Mallard Bay Drilling, 534 U.S. 235, 241 (2002) (holding OSHA's regulatory power is not preempted by U.S. Coast Guard regulations). (40.) The defense is also known as the unpreventable o......
  • Employment-related crimes.
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Vol. 43 Nbr. 2, March 2006
    • March 22, 2006
    ...jurisdiction over coal mine operations was preempted by the FMSHA, 30 U.S.C. [sub section] 801-962), with Chao v. Mallard Bay Drilling, 534 U.S. 235,241 (2002) (holding OSHA's regulatory power is not preempted by U.S. Coast Guard (38.) The defense is also known as the unpreventable or unfor......
  • Employment-related crimes.
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Vol. 44 Nbr. 2, March 2007
    • March 22, 2007
    ...over coal mine operations was preempted by the FMSHA, 30 U.S.C. [section][section] 801-962), with Chao v. Mallard Bay Drilling, 534 U.S. 235, 241 (2002) (holding OSHA's regulatory power is not preempted by U.S. Coast Guard regulations). (39.) The defense is also known as the unpreventable o......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 provisions
  • COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing; Emergency Temporary Standard
    • United States
    • Occupational Safety And Health Administration
    • Invalid date
    ...4(b)(1) of the OSH Act, the regulations and enforcement policies of other federal agencies. See, e.g., Chao v. Mallard Bay Drilling, Inc., 534 U.S. 235, 241 \1\ The Secretary has delegated most of his duties under the OSH Act to the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and H......
  • Separate Parts In This Issue Part II Labor Department, Occupational Safety and Health Administration,
    • United States
    • Federal Register December 20, 2007
    • December 7, 2007
    ...Therefore, OSHA does not have authority over those vessels (29 U.S.C. 653(b)(1); Chao v. Mallard Bay Drilling, Inc. (Mallard Bay), 534 U.S. 235 (2002); Ex. 16-6; CPL 02-01- 020 Coast Guard/OSHA Authority Over Vessels, 11/8/1996). However, OSHA does have authority over uninspected vessels (h......
  • Part II
    • United States
    • Federal Register December 20, 2007
    • December 7, 2007
    ...Therefore, OSHA does not have authority over those vessels (29 U.S.C. 653(b)(1); Chao v. Mallard Bay Drilling, Inc. (Mallard Bay), 534 U.S. 235 (2002); Ex. 16-6; CPL 02-01- 020 Coast Guard/OSHA Authority Over Vessels, 11/8/1996). However, OSHA does have authority over uninspected vessels (h......

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