RAY V. ATLANTIC RICHFIELD CO., 435 U. S. 151 (1978)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Ray v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 435 U.S. 151 (1978)

Ray v. Atlantic Richfield

No. 76-930

Argued October 31, 1977

Decided March 6, 1978

435 U.S. 151


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 preempted 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

Page 435 U. S. 152

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.


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 435 U. S. 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; Kelly v. Washington, 302 U. S. 1, distinguished. Pp. 435 U. S. 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 preempted by the federal scheme. Pp. 435 U. S. 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. 435 U. S. 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 53 U. S. 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. 435 U. S. 180.

___ F.Supp. ___ affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and STEWART and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined; in all but Parts V and VII of which POWELL and STEVENS, JJ., joined; and in all but Parts IV and VI of which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which BRENNAN and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined, post, p. 435 U. S. 180. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring and dissenting in part, in which POWELL, J., joined, post, p. 435 U. S. 187.

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