States seek right to amend federal tanker regulations

Washington state legislators have begun actions to repeal 11 state laws regulating tankers that were knocked down by a unanimous decision of the US Supreme Court in March. But members of INTERTANKO, which successfully challenged that attempted regulation by the state, perhaps should not begin celebrating just yet. Sen. Slade Gordon (R-Wash.) earlier this month introduced a bill to amend the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 to permit states to add additional requirements to federal tanker regulations.


Washington state legislators have begun actions to repeal 11 state laws regulating tankers that were knocked down by a unanimous decision of the US Supreme Court in March. But members of the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO), which successfully challenged that attempted regulation by the state, perhaps should not begin celebrating just yet.

Sen. Slade Gordon (R-Wash.) earlier this month introduced a bill to amend the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 to permit states to add additional requirements to federal tanker regulations (OGJ Online, May 11, 2000).

The Supreme Court ruled Mar. 6 (US vs. Locke) that regulation of tanker vessel design, construction, alteration, repair, operation, equipment, personnel qualification, and manning is the exclusive preserve of the federal government. That decision invalidated outright four of the state's tank vessel regulations. But the judges remanded the remaining regulations to the lower federal courts with instructions to consider those regulations in light of the Supreme Court's rationale in the other decision.

State officials announced their intention to repeal all remaining state regulations within a few days of the filing of briefs by INTERTANKO and US government attorneys at the direction of the Ninth Circuit of Appeals in San Francisco. That court had scheduled oral argument on the remaining regulations for July 19.

"The looming reality of court of appeals review appears to have stimulated the state to make a realistic assessment of its chances of success in defending remaining rules," said Jonathan Benner, attorney for the Oslo-based INTERTANKO trade association.

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