International Paper Company v. Ouellette

PETITIONER: International Paper Company
RESPONDENT: Ouellette
LOCATION: Florida Department of Labor

DOCKET NO.: 85-1233
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 479 US 481 (1987)
ARGUED: Nov 04, 1986
DECIDED: Jan 21, 1987

ADVOCATES:
Lawrence G. Wallace - on behalf of the United States as amicus curiae supporting respondents
Peter F. Langrock - on behalf of the respondents
Roy L. Reardon - on behalf of the petitioner

Facts of the case

Question

Media for International Paper Company v. Ouellette

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 04, 1986 in International Paper Company v. Ouellette

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 21, 1987 in International Paper Company v. Ouellette

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 85-1233, International Paper Company against Ouellette will be announced by Justice Powell.

Lewis F. Powell, Jr.:

This case is here from the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Petitioner operates a paper mill on the New York Shore of Lake Champlain.

Respondents are property owners whose land is located across the lake on the Vermont Shore.

Respondents brought suit in the Vermont District Court, claiming that the mill was discharging pollutants into the lake, and that this caused a continuing nuisance under Vermont law.

Under present procedures authorized by the Clean Water Act, petitioner has obtained a premit to make these discharges in accordance with both the New York and federal law.

Two questions are presented: First, whether the Vermont Court has jurisdiction, and second whether in light of the provisions of the Clean Water Act, the nuisance law of Vermont maybe applied when the source of pollution is in New York.

Petitioner moved for summary judgment claiming that under the Clean Water Act the suit could only be maintained in New York, the state in which the mill is located.

The District Court denied petitioners motion and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

For the reason stated in an opinion filed today, we agree that the property owners could maintain this action in the Vermont Federal Court.

We also find however that the Courts below erred in holding that the case could be decided under the nuisance law of Vermont.

Under the Clean Water Act, New York, as a source stated, has authority to issue a permit consistent with both federal and State law.

The Clean Water Act is a comprehensive regulatory statute applicable to navigable waters in every state.

We think the Act preempts all inconsistent state laws that would interfere with the enforcement of the Federal Act, if every affected state could apply its own law.

We therefore conclude that to the extent a Vermont law may differ from that of New York, it is preempted.

Accordingly we affirm in part and reverse in part the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

We remand the case for further proceedings consistent with our opinion.

Justice Brennan has filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part in which Justices Marshall and Blackmun have joined; Justice Stevens also has filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part in which Justice Blackmun also has joined.