Ray v. Atlantic Richfield Company

Decision Date06 March 1978
Docket NumberNo. 76-930,76-930
Citation55 L.Ed.2d 179,435 U.S. 151,98 S.Ct. 988
PartiesDixy Lee RAY, Governor of Washington, et al., Appellants, v. ATLANTIC RICHFIELD COMPANY and Seatrain Lines, I corporated
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Appellees challenge the constitutionality of the Washington Tanker Law, which regulates the design, size, and movement of oil tankers in Puget Sound, both enrolled (those engaged in domestic or coastwise trade) and registered (those engaged in foreign trade). Three operative provisions are involved: (1) a requirement (§ 88.16.180) that both enrolled and registered oil tankers of at least 50,000 deadweight tons (DWT) carry a Washington-licensed pilot while navigating the Sound; (2) a requirement (§ 88.16.190(2)) that enrolled and registered oil tankers of from 40,000 to 125,000 DWT satisfy certain design or safety standards, or else use tug escorts while operating in the Sound; and (3) a ban on the operation in the Sound of any tanker exceeding 125,000 DWT (§ 88.16.190(1)). A three-judge District Court adjudged the statute void in its entirety, upholding appellees' contentions that all the Tanker Law's operative provisions were pre-empted by federal law particularly the Ports and Waterways Safety Act of 1972 (PWSA), which is designed to insure vessel safety and the protection of navigable waters and adjacent shore areas from tanker oil spillage. Title I of the PWSA empowers the Secretary of Transportation to establish, operate, and require compliance with "vessel traffic services and systems" for ports subject to congested traffic and to control vessel traffic in especially hazardous areas by, among other things, establishing vessel size limitations. Pursuant to this Title, the Secretary, through his delegate, has promulgated the Puget Sound Vessel Traffic System, which contains general and communication rules, vessel movement reporting requirements, a traffic separation scheme, special ship movement rules applying to Rosario Strait (where under a local Coast Guard rule the passage of more than one 70,000 DWT vessel—in bad weather, 40,000 DWT—in either direction at a given time is prohibited), and other requirements. A State, though permitted to impose higher equipment or safety standards, may do so "for structures only." Title II, whose goals are to provide vessel safety and protect the marine environment, provides that the Secretary shall issue such rules and regulations as may be necessary with respect to the design, construction, and operation of oil tankers; provides for inspection of vessels for compliance with the Secretary's safety and environmental regulations; and prohibits the carrying of specified cargoes absent issuance of a certificate of inspection evidencing compliance with the regulations. Title 46 U.S.C. § 364 provides that every coastwise seagoing steam vessel subject to federal navigation laws not sailing under register shall, when under way, be under the control and direction of pilots licensed by the Coast Guard. Title 46 U.S.C. § 215 adds that no state government shall impose upon steam vessel pilots any obligation to procure a state license in addition to the federal license, though it is specified that the provision does not affect state requirements for carrying pilots on other than coastwise vessels. Held :

1. To the extent that § 88.16.180 requires enrolled tankers to carry state-licensed pilots, the State is precluded by 46 U.S.C. §§ 215, 364 from imposing its own pilotage requirements and to that extent the state law is invalid. The District Court's judgment was overly broad, however, in invalidating the pilot provision in its entirety, since under both 46 U.S.C. § 215 and the PWSA States are free to impose pilotage requirements on registered vessels entering and leaving their ports. Pp. 158-160.

2. Congress in Title II intended uniform national standards for design and construction of tankers that would foreclose the imposition of different or more stringent state requirements, and since the federal scheme aims at precisely the same ends as § 88.16.190(2) of the Tanker Law, the different and higher design requirements of that provision, standing alone, are invalid under the Supremacy Clause. Huron Portland Cement Co. v. Detroit, 362 U.S. 440, 80 S.Ct. 813, 4 L.Ed.2d 852; Kelly v. Washington, 302 U.S. 1, 58 S.Ct. 87, 82 L.Ed. 3, distinguished. Pp. 160-168.

3. The District Court erred in holding that the alternative tug requirement of § 88.16.190(2) was invalid as conflicting with the PWSA, for the Secretary has not as yet promulgated his own tug requirement for Puget Sound tanker navigation or decided that there should be no such requirement. Unless and until he issues such rules, the State's tug-escort requirement is not pre-empted by the federal scheme. Pp. 168-173.

4. The exclusion from Puget Sound of any tanker exceeding 125,000 DWT pursuant to § 88.16.190(1) is invalid under the Supremacy Clause in light of Title I and the Secretary's actions thereunder, a conclusion confirmed by the legislative history of Title I which shows that Congress intended that there be a single federal decisionmaker to promulgate limitations on tanker size. Pp. 173-178.

5. The tug-escort requirement does not violate the Commerce Clause. This requirement, like a local pilotage requirement, is not the type of regulation demanding a uniform national rule, see Cooley v. Board of Wardens, 12 How. 299, 13 L.Ed. 996, nor does it impede the free flow of interstate and foreign commerce, the tug-escort charges not being large enough to interfere with the production of oil. Pp. 179-180.

6. Nor does the tug-escort provision, which does not interfere with the Government's attempt to achieve international agreement on the regulation of tanker design, interfere with the Government's authority to conduct foreign affairs. P. 180.

Slade Gorton, Atty. Gen., Olympia, Wash., for appellants.

Richard E. Sherwood, Los Angeles, Cal., for appellees.

[Amicus Curiae Information from pages 153-154 intentionally omitted] Mr. Justice WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

Pursuant to the Ports and Waterways Safety Act of 1972 (PWSA), 86 Stat. 424, 33 U.S.C. § 1221 et seq. (1970 ed., Supp. V), and 46 U.S.C. § 391a (1970 ed., Supp. V), navigation in Puget Sound, a body of inland water lying along the northwest coast of the State of Washington,1 is controlled in major respects by federal law. The PWSA also subjects to federal rule the design and operating characteristics of oil tankers.

This case arose when ch. 125, 1975 Wash.Laws, 1st Extr. Sess., Wash.Rev.Code § 88.16.170 et seq. (Supp.1975) (Tanker Law), was adopted with the aim of regulating in particular respects the design, size, and movement of oil tankers in Puget Sound. In response to the constitutional challenge to the law brought by the appellees herein, the District Court held that under the Supremacy Clause, Art. VI, cl. 2, of the Constitution, which declares that the federal law "shall be the supreme Law of the Land," the Tanker Law could not coexist with the PWSA and was totally invalid. Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Evans, No. C-75-648-M (WD Wash. Sept. 24, 1976).

A. I

Located adjacent to Puget Sound are six oil refineries having a total combined processing capacity of 359,500 barrels of oil per day. In 1971, appellee Atlantic Richfield Co. (ARCO) began operating an oil refinery at Cherry Point, situated in the northern part of the Sound. Since then, the crude oil processed at that refinery has been delivered principally by pipeline from Canada 2 and by tankers from the Persian Gulf; tankers will also be used to transport oil there from the terminus of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline at Valdez, Alaska. Of the 105 tanker deliveries of crude oil to the Cherry Point refinery from 1972 through 1975, 95 were by means of tankers in excess of 40,000 deadweight tons (DWT),3 and, prior to the effective date of the Tanker Law, 15 of them were by means of tankers in excess of 125,000 DWT.

Appellee Seatrain Lines, Inc. (Seatrain), owns or charters 12 tanker vessels in domestic and foreign commerce, of which four exceed 125,000 DWT. Seatrain also operates through a wholly owned subsidiary corporation a shipbuilding facility in New York City, where it has recently constructed or is constructing four tankers, each with a 225,000 DWT capacity.

On the day the Tanker Law became effective, ARCO brought suit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, seeking a judgment declaring the statute unconstitutional and enjoining its enforcement. Seatrain was later permitted to intervene as a plaintiff. Named as defendants were the state and local officials responsible for the enforcement of the Tanker Law.4 The complaint alleged that the statute was pre-empted by federal law, in particular the PWSA, and that it was thus invalid under the Supremacy Clause. It was also alleged that the law imposed an undue burden on interstate commerce in violation of the Commerce Clause, Art. I, § 8, cl. 3, and that it interfered with the federal regulation of foreign affairs. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2281, 2284, a three-judge court was convened to determine the case.

The case was briefed and argued before the District Court on the basis of a detailed stipulation of facts. Also before the court was the brief of the United States as amicus curiae, which contended that the Tanker Law was pre-empted in its entirety by the PWSA and other federal legislation.5 The three-judge court agreed with the plaintiffs and the United States, ruling that all of the operative provisions of the Tanker Law were pre-empted, and enjoining appellants and their successors from enforcing the chapter.6 We noted probable jurisdiction of the State's appeal, 430 U.S. 905, 97 S.Ct. 1172, 51 L.Ed.2d 580 (1977), meanwhile having stayed the injunction. 429 U.S. 1035, 97 S.Ct. 729, 50 L.Ed.2d 747 (1977).


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