Ray v. Atlantic Richfield Co.

RESPONDENT: Atlantic Richfield Co.
LOCATION: Channel Islands National Park

DOCKET NO.: 76-930
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)

CITATION: 435 US 151 (1978)
ARGUED: Oct 31, 1977
DECIDED: Mar 06, 1978

Richard E. Sherwood - for appellees
Slade Gorton - for appellants

Facts of the case

This case study discusses the way the appellees challenged the Washington Tanker Law that was monitoring the size, transfer, and even the design of the oil tankers in Puget Sound. The case brief included the analysis of three operative provisions. The case brief notes that the judges supported appellees' claims regarding this legal provision. The decision was that it should guarantee the protection the vessel security and to preserve the nearby shore territories as well as the navigable waters from possible tanker oil spillage.

This particular case requires to know four important Titles of PWSA. It is essential for correct understanding of the decision made by judges. Hence, Title I permits the Secretary of Transportation to operate, establish, and ask for the compliance with the set vessel traffic systems and services in the ports. They are always subject to full traffic and to regulate the transportation in particularly dangerous regions by setting size restrictions. Title II informs that the Secretary had to declare such issues because this could be affected by the development, exploitation, and design of oil tankers.

Title 46 U.S.C. § 364 notifies that all coastwise seagoing steam vessels are subjected to state shipping laws not sailing under control should always be under the direction and control the pilots licensed by the Coast Guard. Title 46 U.S.C. § 215 states that no federal government has to force upon steam vessel pilots any responsibility to obtain both federal license and tate permission.


Media for Ray v. Atlantic Richfield Co.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 31, 1977 in Ray v. Atlantic Richfield Co.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 06, 1978 in Ray v. Atlantic Richfield Co.

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in 76-930, Ray, the Governor of Washington state against Atlantic Richfield Co. will be announced by Mr. Justice White.

Byron R. White:

This case concerns the Ports and Waterways Safety Act which was passed by Congress in 1972 and which regulates navigation on various inland waters of states including the waters of Puget Sound in the state of Washington.

It also controls the design and operating characteristics of oil tankers.

In 1975, the state of Washington adopted a statute which also regulates, in substantial respects, the operating characteristics of tankers.

For one thing, it requires that any tanker of 50,000 tonnes or more take on a state licensed pilot, for another it requires tankers of over 40,000 tonnes to have certain design characteristics or are to be accompanied by tugs, and lastly it forbids tankers of over 125,000 tonnes from entering Puget Sound under any conditions.

Tanker owners and operators soon challenged the law on constitutional grounds.

Their principal argument was that the Ports and Waterways Safety Act occupied this field and that the Washington statute was in conflict either with specific -- either specifically or in general with the scheme of the Federal Law.

A three-judge court agreed with the plaintiffs and held that the Washington statute was unconstitutional in its entirety.

We noted probable jurisdiction and we now reverse in part and affirm in part.

In brief, we hold as follows.

First, the requirement that the tankers take on a state licensed pilot is valid as to ships in the foreign trade but invalid with respect to coast wise vessels.

Second, the state's design requirements cannot be enforced in face of the Federal Act.

Third, tankers may nevertheless be required to be accompanied by tugs.

Fourth, the exclusion of large tankers from the Sound is inconsistent with the federal scheme and cannot be enforced.

I have filed an opinion with the clerk, an opinion for the Court.

The opinion is joined in its entirety by the Chief Justice and Justices Stewart and Blackmun.

Justices Brennan, Marshall and Rehnquist join on the Parts IV and VI of the opinion and Justices Stevens and Powell join on the Parts V and VII.

Justice Marshall with Justices Brennan and Rehnquist agree with him, dissents in part and concurs in part in accordance with an opinion he has filed.

Justice Stevens has filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part and he's joined by Mr. Justice Powell.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice White.